Biblical morality part 2: Killing non-virgin brides and rebellious kids

June 26, 2012 • 4:35 am

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.

99 thoughts on “Biblical morality part 2: Killing non-virgin brides and rebellious kids

  1. What’s with all the random italics? They don’t seem to have any proper reason.

    Of course morality can’t come from gods, they don’t exist, and the ones that people make up are evil bastards!

    1. Italic words in the KJB are those that don’t correspond to a specific word in the text being translated.

  2. It seems that if one has healthy mental faculties then empathy will exist and that would make stoning someone impossible. Heinous violent acts against another human would offend me because I too am a human. No god needed, just a well-developed modular brain, thank you very much.

    1. Actually stoning has some benefits in ‘group-selection’ thing 😀 – by stoning together a (supposedly) common enemy, then there is no slightest doubt as to where each stands, you’re the executioner!

      This (supposedly) created more cohesive group, you’re all the same, criminals.

      In some Asian cultures in the past, similar punishment is done by tying the victim in the crossroad, then everybody had to cut the victim with provided blade. Sometime salt water is provided too, if you can’t do the slicing, you may just pour salt water on the already present wounds (but you’ll be marked as a wimp).
      Execution done splendidly, the society ‘benefits’ by becoming more cohesive… long live the king!

      It is clear what the morality of these kind of executions, blame dispersal.

      Kind of morality!

      1. Decimation, in the original Roman military sense, worked on this principle as well.

        The way the word is used, most people think it means something like “nearly completely destroy”. In reality, it means “to reduce by a tenth.”

        It was a very rarely used punishment which consisted of having tent mates draw lots and the unlucky loser was executed. However, he wasn’t simply taken away and killed out of sight. The other nine men from his tent were given clubs and forced to beat him to death. This repeated throughout the whole army would reduce it by a tenth, therefore, decimation.

  3. Although my father claimed to be an atheist, there was one quote he attributed to the Bible to justify his brutality: “Spare the rod and spoil the child!” It wasn’t until many years after I left home that I learned the “rod” referred to is the staff that shepherds use to guide their sheep – certainly not to beat them!

    1. We haven’t got to Proverbs yet, but the hebrew `שֹׂונֵ֣א‘ from Proverbs 13:24 means a club for smiting ones enemies, as in Exodus 21:20–21. Specifically, you’re free to beat your servants and children with a club, unless they die from the beatings:

      And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.
      Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.

    2. I’m not sure that’s accurate. In Psalm 23, don’t they say “your rod and your staff, they comfort me”. That implies separate tools, right?

      The staff was used to push sheep around like a shepherd’s crook, and the rod to beat/discipline them; that’s what I remember from Bible study.

      1. Cheez! I’d hate to think there was yet one more thing that I believe that isn’t true. Anyways, if Daddy Dearest had held onto the commandments to kill rebellious sons my brothers and I would be toast.

  4. In my childhood, during my period of indoctrination, I asked the question “how do we know which of the laws apply to us now?” since stoning of my misbehaving brother was out of the question. I was told that the role of the holy spirit was that of a fine tuner. Once you accepted jesus as your lord and saviour the holy ghost would “abide” with you and let you know which applied and which didn’t. I soon learned that nonsense can be easily defended by using sophisticated nonsense.

    1. Ah yes, the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit is a rather confusing ad hoc idea that shields Christians from their bigotry and the religion’s inconsistencies. One of the crushing blows to my faith was when I witnessed, upon the election of President Obama, some of the most idiotic conspiracy theories concerning his birth certificate from the most observant and pious Christians. I thought that if a gift of Salvation was Communion with the Holy Spirit as a counselor towards wisdom, then the behavior of these saved sinners shows the Holy Spirit to be a tin-foil-hat wearing ethnocentric paranoid. I had a shift in my perception and considered that the Holy Spirit explanation was a ruse to harmonize atonalities. It explained nothing and predicted less.

    2. I grew up in a word of faith, holy spirit filled, tongues speaking church….one of the things I learned quickly is the Holy Spirit is forgetful and bipolar. Just listen to what the spirit tells each person, and most of the time he contradicts himself, quickly changes his mind (One person say the spirit is telling me to go into ministry, five minutes later another person says no, god has different plans for you). Its all BS though, it should be apparent but they ignore that part. The work around is god has to tell you and then “confirm” it with two or three witnesses otherwise you didn’t really hear from the spirit….its a joke.

      1. “the Holy Spirit is forgetful and bipolar.”

        He also changed his name from Holy Ghost to Holy Spirit. I suspect he did this soon after the second Vatican Council, didn’t want to be confused with Casper the Friendly Ghost.

  5. In my childhood, during my period of indoctrination, I asked the question \”how do we know which of the laws apply to us now?\” since stoning of my misbehaving brother was out of the question. I was told that the role of the holy spirit was that of a fine tuner. Once you accepted jesus as your lord and saviour the holy ghost would \”abide\” with you and let you know which applied and which didn\’t. I soon learned that nonsense can be easily defended by using sophisticated nonsense.

  6. It is all about fear – “all Israel shall hear, and fear.” That is the lesson for dictators – crush people so they will obey you.

    As for loo paper, as a child we had the no roll stuff, Izal Medicated, in separate shiny sheets in a box, but it was widely used in public buildings, schools etc well into the 1970s. It was the type of paper POWs wrote letters on.

    1. Jebus, I remember Izal paper from my minor but old-fashioned public school, AND from home – for some reason my father preferred the stuff. It did make for good instant book page markers – even now some of the books I inherited from my father shed a yellowing sheet of Izal.

  7. “…he left it, no doubt, to aid in poor Rocky’s revival..” I knew it must be good for at least something!

  8. Then there’s this horrendous command, supposedly from God, wherein one is commanded to kill his own wife, family or friends who advocate worshipping other gods than Yahweh:

    Deuteronomy 13:6 (NIV) “If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. 9 You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. 10 Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.”

    Anyone who can read that and still think the bible is “The Good Book” or anyway inspired by a deity and should be obeyed has a very warped sense of morality

    1. I hear claims that Islam is even worse than Judiasm and Christianity in the way that it promotes the killing of apostates. But this passage seems to me to just that. So is the only real difference that there (may be) more Muslims in 2012 who are prepared to actually follow through?

      1. If you can believe it, Jesus himself even goes one further. In Luke 19:27, he comes right out and demands that all who reject him be brought before him and slain at his feet. So, I’d say that the difference is the proximity of the PR team doing the spinning.

        Cheers,

        b&

  9. I recall Richard Feynman telling the story of some orthodox Jewish students who asked him ‘is electricity fire?’. And he thought ‘at last a real question.’ But it just seemed they wanted to know if they could personally press the elevator button on the Sabbath (since making fire was work).

    I’ve also read that the more absurd the prohibition, the more virtue there is in following it. From where I’m standing, the absurdity of the prohibition is directly correlated with the degree of batshit insanity (to steal a phrase). Of course this isn’t confined to Judaism, there’s plenty of stupid to go around.

    Actually that list linked by Jerry
    http://www.ou.org/chagim/shabbat/thirtynine.htm is a lovely example. The amount of hairsplitting going on is unbelievable. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

    1. Richard Feynman telling the story of some orthodox Jewish students who asked him ‘is electricity fire?’.

      It’s in Surely You’re Joking:

      One day, two or three of the young rabbis came to me and said, “We realize that we can’t study to be rabbis in the modern world without knowing something about science, so we’d like to ask you some questions.”

      Of course there are thousands of places to find out about science, and Columbia University was right near there, but I wanted to know what kinds of questions they were interested in.

      They said, “Well, for instance, is electricity fire?”

      “No,” I said, “but… what is the problem?”

      They said, “In the Talmud it says you’re not supposed to make fire on a Saturday, so our question is, can we use electrical things on Saturdays?”

      I was shocked. They weren’t interested in science at all! The only way science was influencing their lives was so they might be able to interpret better the Talmud! They weren’t interested in the world outside, in natural phenomena; they were only interested in resolving some question brought up in the Talmud.

      And then one day- I guess it was a Saturday- I want to go up in the elevator, and there’s a guy standing near the elevator. The elevator comes, I go in, and he goes in with me. I say, “Which floor?” and my hand’s ready to push one of the buttons.

      “No, no!” he says, “I’m supposed to push the buttons for you.”

      “What?”

      “Yes! The boys here can’t push the buttons on Saturday, so I have to do it for them. You see, I’m not Jewish, so it’s all right for me to push the buttons. I stand near the elevator, and they tell me what floor, and I push the button for them.”

      Well, this really bothered me, so I decided to trap the students in a logical discussion. I had been brought up in a Jewish home, so I knew the kind of nitpicking logic to use, and I thought, “Here’s fun!”

      My plan went like this: I’d start off by asking, “Is the Jewish viewpoint a viewpoint that any man can have? Because if it is not, then it’s certainly not something that is truly valuable for humanity… yak, yak, yak.” And then they would have to say, “Yes, the Jewish viewpoint is good for any man.”

      Then I would steer them around a little more by asking, “Is it ethical for a man to hire another man to do something which is unethical for him to do? Would you hire a man to rob for you, for instance?” And I keep working them into the channel, very slowly, and very carefully, until I’ve got them- trapped!

      And do you know what happened? They’re rabbinical students, right? They were ten times better than I was! As soon as they saw I could put them in a hole, they went twist, turn, twist- I can’t remember how- and they were free! I thought I had come up with an original idea- phooey! It had been discussed in the Talmud for ages! So they cleaned me up just as easy as pie- they got right out.

      Finally I tried to assure the rabbinical students that the electrical spark that was bothering them when they pushed the elevator buttons was not fire. I said, “Electricity is not fire. It’s not a chemical process, as fire is.”

      “Oh?” they said.

      “Of course, there’s electricity in amongst the atoms in a fire.”

      “Aha!” they said.

      “And in every other phenomenon that occurs in the world.”

      I even proposed a practical solution for eliminating the spark.

      “If that’s what’s bothering you, you can put a condensor across the switch, so the electricity will go on and off without any spark whatsoever- anywhere.” But for some reason, they didn’t like that idea either.

      It really was a disappointment. Here they are, slowly coming to life, only to better interpret the Talmud. Imagine! In modern times like this, guys are studying to go into society and do something- to be a rabbi- and the only way they think that science might be interesting is because their ancient, provincial, medieval problems are being confounded slightly by some new phenomena…

      They didn’t understand technology; they didn’t understand their time.

    2. When my ex-brother-in-law went Hasidic, and I got to see first-hand just how much praying and blessing takes up the day of the devout, I made the comment to my then-wife: if one of these people developed OCD, how could you tell? My conservative estimate is that he is saying 50 prayers per day, roughly every 15 minutes there is an occasion.

      1. My dear Inuit friend Raven (who has OCD) firmly believes it can be exacerbated or encouraged by certain lifestyles. In her case, the training to be a hypervigilant hunter. I don’t know if her viewpoint is line with the latest research on the subject, though.

        On the other hand, maybe some religious groups attract the repetitive-prone as a sort of “safe outlet”, like how very authoritarian religions these days seem to be an outlet for those who cannot gain such power elsewhere. (Or mixes with them, like with many Republicans.)

  10. Isn’t work defined as force x distance? So isn’t just reaching for a sheet of pre-cut TP or stepping onto a pre-programmed elevator – at a basic level – a violation of god’s no-work rules? Then again, maybe god is more lawyer than scientist and he gives points for spotting loopholes. 😉

    1. Then again, maybe god is more lawyer than scientist and he gives points for spotting loopholes.

      Obviously. I mean some workarounds are quite creative: just look up eruv, sheitel or shabbos goy (Jerry linked to that one above).

    2. Haha, I was thinking the same thing.

      “Man, I don’t think a Jewish physicist would be able to even be alive or conscious on the Sabbath: even basic homeostasis involves lots of the physics definition of work.”

  11. just hysterical that the magic god of the Christians and Jews is thought to care about tearing toilet paper. I wonder, why didn’t the Israelites simply not take a shit on the sabbath since that must offend their god too. This god certainly is constantly offended by the bodies that he supposedly made. I do wonder that idiot theists haven’t made women wear some sort of, oh, yellow star, &) to show when they are menstruating so they know where not to sit.

    Always nice to see such pious people follow their supposedly divinely decreed laws but only up until the point that secular society says that those laws are wrong. For claiming this nonsense is their “morality”, they sure have no trouble ignoring it as convenient.

    1. Yesterday we learned about Yahweh’s interest in pooping with a spade. Today we learn of his interest in toilet paper. Tomorrow…. treatment of hemorrhoids?

          1. don’t forget the solid gold hemmorrhoids in 1 Samuel 6. oh and the gold rats and this god killing some more of its followers for messing with its magic box.

            This god really does have some “issues”.

    2. Well, the women were technically unclean during their periods, so you weren’t supposed to touch them, and they were in charge of letting others know they were unclean.

      And back when they were actually “given” these laws, women were supposed to stay outside the main camp while unclean. Monthly exile….jeez.

      What I can’t wait for is Numbers 5, where God says adulterous women are magically punished by aborting their babies and making them sterile. I can’t wait to cite that the next time I’m arguing with a “pro-lifer” Christian.

  12. “This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.”

    I see Kids Today haven’t changed since the Bronze Age.

  13. I find the concept of a Shabbas goy one of the more subtly offensive parts of modern orthodox Judaism.

    So, what? You’re too special to flip that light switch, but you can get somebody who’s not of your tribe (and therefore not chosen / damned / whatever) to be your slave and do it for you, because they’re chopped liver or something?

    Many, if not most, of the rules the orthodox follow are nutty but harmless. And the strict adherence to a holiday schedule would actually be admirable, if it weren’t for what they waste their time on during the holiday. But then there’re also all these truly nasty bits, like kosher slaughter and the Shabbas goy and infant circumcision and the inferiority of women and and and and and…and the Hitch truly was right: religion poisons everything.

    Incidentally, matzo is easy to make. It’s just flour and water made into a stiff dough, rolled out, and then baked (possibly with a quick toasting on a hot skillet first). And fresh matzos are really quite tasty — nothing at all like the square sheets of cardboard barely indistinguishable from the cardboard they’re packaged in. It’s one of the oldest forms of flatbread, and who doesn’t love flatbread? Pita, tortillas, crepes, lavash, injera, naan, Mandarin pancakes, sourdough flapjacks, even ice cream cones and pizza crust…basically every culture has at least one if not several variations on the theme, and I’ve yet to encounter one that isn’t really good, when done right.

    Cheers,

    b&

    1. “So, what? You’re too special to flip that light switch, but you can get somebody who’s not of your tribe (and therefore not chosen / damned / whatever) to be your slave and do it for you, because they’re chopped liver or something?”

      That seems to me to be logically futile. Generally, if you hire someone to do something, you’re commonly regarded as being equally responsible. For example, if you hire a hit man to kill somebody, you’re equally guilty of murder (I’m not for a moment suggesting hiring/asking someone to flip the light switch is as reprehensible as that!)

      The Wikipedia page on Shabbas goys suggests that one doesn’t actually pay them at the time, one sort of suggests they might like to switch the light on for their own benefit (so one is just accidentally benefited). But it seems weird that you could fool Yahweh so easily.

      1. Somewhat similar with the Amish, apparently. Via a friend in central Pennsylvania, they can’t use telephones, but they can use someone else’s. His neighbor is an Amish farmer, and they let him use their phone just to be nice neighbors and also since they get pies etc in return. But it got sorta tedious – his feet were often muddy and he smelled from mucking out the horse stalls, so they eventually just installed a phone on the corner of the house. Another theological dilemma accommodated.

        And then even more hilarious, a when a colleague was a grad student at U Utah, his Mormon neighbors were delighted to find that he wasn’t one of them, since now they had a trash can they could put their liquor bottles in.

        1. Perfect examples of why “holier than thou” is such an insult, if there ever were any.

          “I’m too holy to flip this light switch, but you’re not holy at all so flip it for me.”

          “I’m to holy to pay for a telephone line, but you’re not holy at all so let me run up your phone bill.”

          “I’m too holy to be seen drinking booze, but you’re not holy at all so let me make it look like you’re the town drunk.”

          Assholes, the lot of ’em.

          b&

        2. I was in Salt Lake City for a convention a few years back.

          Went into a bar/restaurant near the cathedral complex where all of the eager young missionaries are happy to give you tours.

          Sitting on a stool at the bar having a beer was one of the young ladies. The bartender noticed she still had her name tag on and pointed it out to her.

          She put it in her purse while taking a sip of her brewski. It’s OK if the name tag is off, but not OK if it’s on, apparently.

      2. fooling this god seems to be a Jewish and Christian assumption, with the attempts at claiming Pascal’s wager would work, one could just “suggest” something, etc. Always entertaining when this god gets powered down for theist convenience.

    2. Ben, I once actually was the Shabbas Goy for an observant, wait for it, Evangelical Sabbatarian family, running errands and performing chores for them during an emergency.
      When I pointed out to them the irony of my being cast as the Shabbas Goy, the term didn’t register. Not in the least. So I explained. Their adult daughter, an otherwise clever, charming and educated girl, was non-plussed: “So Orthodox Jews observe the Sabbath, too? Like us? How come?”
      I double-checked. She genuinely had no idea.

  14. 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.

    Finally. A long-term, clinically effective, treatment care plan for Oppositional Defiant Disorder w/o meds.

  15. OK, I just !*have*! to ask. Is using the camping pooper-scooper from Deuteronomy that JC/WEIT posted two days ago “work”?

    Or if you poop on the Sabbath are you supposed to wait till the next day to cover it with sand? Or get a Shabbas goy to cover it for you?

    Obviously, the book sitting on my shelf entitled “How to Shit in the Woods” (http://www.amazon.com/Shit-Woods-Second-Edition-Environmentally/dp/0898156270) (I do a lot of backpacking) was written strictly for goyim.

    1. Now you’re getting into the deep questions. Sounds like one of the countless problems for which we need the help of Serious Theologians™. Seriously, how can a person reflect on this kind of idiocy and not become an atheist?

    2. I’m afraid that falls under Plowing*). Also, you may not be allowed to walk that far outside the camp on the Shabbath.

      It’s interesting that wiping your ass is allowed at all, given that you could rip out any hairs on your bum which would be considered “shearing”, an other prohibited action on the Shabbath.

      *) This includes any work that improves the ground.
      Digging up a garden and fertilizing it fall under this heading. Also included is raking a lawn.

  16. Alexander Pope rewrote Homer’s Iliad in rhymed couplets.

    I’m now contemplating rewriting Deuteronomy in limericks.

    1. Why is it that of all verse forms the limerick seems to be uniquely suited to themes of questionable propriety? 😉

      Seriously?

    2. Damn! Another good idea. [There was a two page leaflet called “The Limerick Bible” in the late thirties, distributed by The Truth Seeker Company. The International Workers of the World “Little Red Song Book” has a “New Doxology” that starts off with “Praise God from whom all cyclones blow; Thank him when rivers overflow….”].

  17. i think one of my favorite stories, that i’ve recently come upon, is god sending Nebuchadnezzar and his army to destroy Jersusalem, and then punnishing four generations of jerusalem’s kings for not stopping the army god-himself commanded to attack jerusalem. http://bit.ly/LwKtni

    the victim blaming is just so juicy!

  18. How can anyone think that Yahweh is not going to notice the shabbos goy is in direct contravention of his ridiculous commands? Exodus 20:10 clearly says not only can one do no work, but also one cannot have someone else or some animal do it for you. Indeed, Exodus 23:12 explicitly spells out that this applies to goys (strangers) as well as Jews.

    1. I had a colleague in high school who lived in an area where some of his neighbours called (yelled down the street or something) to have him turn off stoves on Saturday and such in the way we are discussing. He got the impression that it was regarded as a lesser of two evils.

  19. http://www.ou.org/chagim/shabbat/thirtynine.htm : You shall not light a fire at home on the Sabbath day.Heating a piece of metal so that it glows is also in the category of burning. When an electric light is turned on, its filament is heated white hot, producing light. This is therefore forbidden on the Sabbath. In general, any use of electricity violates the spirit of the Sabbath, since it involves extracting energy from nature.

    Shabbat prohibitions were always farcical, and applying just a tiny amount of high school science makes them even funnier. It’s impossible to adhere to these restrictions even if you’re dead. No use of electricity on the sabbath means no using brains or muscles. And even if you’re stone-cold dead, the blackbody radiation from your corpse causes metal to glow in the long infrared, which falls in the prohibited category of burning. And even if your corpse is tossed into a black hole, you’ll violate the tearing and smoothing proscriptions, so you just can’t win against that asshole God, which after all is the whole point of the Sabbath.

  20. Jerry, just in case you are expecting things to get better in the New Testament, the gospel of Mark says this about killing your kid if he/she talks back:
    “”Whoever curses father or mother shall die” Bible, Mark 7:10.”

    Christian nutters will tell you that the nasty stuff of the OT doesn’t count, because the NT supercedes it. It just goes to show they don’t read their own Holy Book. That always surprises me— I would have thought that someone who really believed they had the amazing Word of God in their very hands would be eager to study it, but they rarely even crack it open. As if maybe at some level they know their belief is a farce.

  21. Very much intrigued by the 18-minute rule for baking matzo, I started searching… and didn’t get anywhere.
    – When was that rule established?
    – How were the 18 minutes mesured? On which timescale?
    – How was the alleged lapse before dough became “leavened” observed empirically? When? By whom?
    Etc.

    One theological gem:

    http://www.ou.org/chagim/pesach/inner.htm
    “The inner meaning of matzah”

    Of that, a truly breath-taking excerpt:

    If the mixture of flour and water is allowed to stand for more than a minimum time of 18 minutes, it is in that time acted upon by an external process which begins to intercede. Yeast bacteria which are found in the air, multiply causing fermentation. The yeast micororganisms are an uninvited invading army intruding on the flour and water mixture helping themselves to a delicious meal of sugar molecules. As the yeast microorganisms multiply by the billions they release carbon dioxide gas that sours the dough.

    The intervention of this outside force is an expression and symbol of the intrusion of outside forces and influences on man; forces which compromise human independence, autonomy and choice. The yeast microorganisms begin their work independent of human will, independent of the person who combined the flour and water which constitutes the dough mix. They intrude on their own, and have therefore become a symbolic expression of the outside forces which sway people from their chosen determined task and entice them to sin. When the yeast enters the dough mixture through the air or water, it is acting independently, intruding on its own. Fermentation, chametz, is a function of nature which symbolizes the negative forces of civilization which sway man from his responsibilities, which entice man to sin. This is how evil works — it sneaks up quietly and unobtrusively. Fermentation represents the evil urge, the urge to sin, the influence of alien ideas and forces. It is the voice that encourages us to ignore the pushy power of evil until it is too late. Flour and water which stand for more than 18 minutes become by definition chametz, leaven. Because matzah is bread which is not leavened, it represents man in control of his passions — exercising his independent disciplined will unflayed by external forces. Matzah is the very opposite of chametz. It is man alert, on the defensive, disciplined and in control, rising above the forces of nature.

    To paraphrase Rabbi Chaim Friedlander, fermentation demonstrates cause and effect the very natural way. When we witness nature at work doing things by itself without any outside intervention we see how natural processes have the effect of concealing the hands of G-d.

    …G-d does not require cause and effect. He does not need time in order to accomplish His goals. We too must emulate G-d and create spiritually by hurrying time, by acting with zeal and speed.

    Nature responds to His will by acting, it seems to us, unnaturally.

    (Emphasis mine. Associated tremor is just the shaking of my head.)

    1. so, how is one allowed to drink wine if the yeast is the evil invading force? Awwww, those convenient metaphors!

      of course by this metaphor, yeast could also mean god aka ” intrusion of outside forces and influences on man; forces which compromise human independence, autonomy and choice” if this is bad, then this god is bad.

  22. “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.”

    The answer I’ve been given by Christians is that Jesus said (I’d have to look up where) that there are really only two commandments. Roughly: 1) Love “God” with all your heart, and 2) Love your neighbor as I love you. That second one is supposed to cover all of the “situational” things that were spelled out explicitly in the Old Testament. If you’re following #2, you won’t covet your neighbor’s wife or sleep with a virgin who is “betrothed” to someone else. Blah blah blah.

    That’s all fair enough, but is contradicted by other things Jesus says.

    1. All xians are cafeteria xians. They have to be. The bible contradicts itself in so many places, among others.

      Even creationists like Ken Ham are. He rejects the biblical Flat Earth and Geocentrism while claiming the earth is 6,000 years old.

  23. JAC, I think what you’re doing here is very helpful, and I haven’t seen it done in quite this way, or quite this effectively before. [Have others?] I can see this kind of presentation, titled Biblical Morality, with section headlines and quotations, making a very handy little best-selling mini-book.

    1. It’s been done countless times. Wikipedia has several entries on this subject e.g. biblical law and so on.

      The ancient Roman Pagan critics of xianity used the same arguments and examples from the bible that we use today.

      This was nearly 2,000 years ago.

      1. I was referring to Jerry’s appealing and provocative style of presentation, not to whether anyone had ever made lists of things the bible prescribes/proscribes.

        1. And by “has anyone done it” I meant have any of the current so-called New Atheists put anything like this out as a publication? Obviously Christopher Hitchens was a past master of doing this out loud, in his debates and such! And obviously all four “horsemen” gave lots of examples in their books. But a short “mini-book,” the kind people self-publish on Amazon, by a prominent atheist scientist like Jerry, or several such, structured just the way Jerry’s doing here, with the witty, blunt headings, would be a terrific and –I think –fresh vehicle for consciousness-raising irreverence.

          1. bcseweb.org Rushdooney:
            Our list may not be perfect but it seems to cover those “crimes” against the family that are inferred by Rushdoony’s statement to Moyers. The real frightening side of it is the interpretation of heresy, apostasy and idolatry. Rushdoony’s position seems to suggest that he would have anyone killed who disagreed with his religious opinions. That represents all but a tiny minority of people. Add to that death penalties for what is quite legal, blasphemy, not getting on with parents and working on a Sunday means that it the fantasy ideal world of Rushdoony and his pals, there will be an awful lot of mass murderers and amongst a tiny population.

            We have done figures for the UK which suggest that around 99% of the population would end up dead and the remainder would have each, on average, killed 500 fellow citizens.

            Here is one similar example.

            Laughing with mixed horror at the bible is very easy. Anyone could make a credible attempt.

            The cuckoo and mass murder aspects of the bible are well known. Among nonXians. The vast majority of xians have no idea because the churches deliberately hide their magic book.

            It’s partly self defense. False Prophets are also to be stoned to death. That would fix our fundie problem. All their leaders would be dead under piles of rocks.

          2. When I was a teenager I remember seeing a four page pamphlet called The Bible in the Balance published by the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, a group active during the Scopes trial and beyond, until the early to mid sixties. I have no idea where one would find The Bible in the Balance nowadays – and my copy is long gone.

            1. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Charles Smith, the guy who started the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism:

              Charles Lee Smith (1887–1964) was an atheist activist in the United States and an editor of the Truth Seeker from 1937 until his death[1]. He also founded the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, though the organization didn’t survive beyond the demise of his successor, James Hervey Johnson. Smith’s greatest claim to fame is the fact that he was the last person to be convicted for blasphemy in the United States—at least in a case of any note.[2]

              His case began when, in 1928, he rented a storefront in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he gave out free atheist literature. The sign in the window read: “Evolution Is True. The Bible’s a Lie. God’s a Ghost.” For this he was charged with violating the city ordinance against blasphemy. Because he was an atheist and therefore couldn’t swear the court’s religious oath to tell the truth, he wasn’t permitted to testify in his own defense. The judge then dismissed the original charge, replacing it with one of distributing obscene, slanderous, or scurrilous literature. Smith was convicted, fined $25, and served most of a twenty-six-day jail sentence. His high-profile fast while behind bars drew national media attention. Upon his release he immediately resumed his atheist activities, was again charged with blasphemy, and this time the charge held. In his trial he was once more denied the right to testify and was sentenced to ninety days in jail and a fine of $100. Released on $1,000 bail, Smith appealed the verdict. The case then dragged on for several years until it was finally dismissed.[3]

      2. Actually, Christian philosophy had been debunked centuries before it was invented.

        No, really — Epicurus did in divine benevolence in the fourth century BCE.

        Cheers,

        b&

  24. No room for choosing what shall or shan’t be followed. Deuteronomy 29:19-20

    «If anyone should think to himself, “I will do well enough if I follow the dictates of my heart,”…Yahweh will not pardon him. His wrath shall burn against him. And all the curses written in the book will come upon him. Yahweh will single him out for misfortune and blot out his name from under heaven.»

    So hemorrhoids if you don’t stone your kids?

  25. Biblical law has the death penalty for about 20 offenses, breaking the Sabbath, adultery, blasphemy, heresy, disobedient chiidren, false prophets, nonvirgin brides and so on.

    It’s estimated that under biblical law, 99% of the US population would end up stoned to death.

    FWIW, there is no evidence that biblical law was ever practiced. The bible seems to have been written by the ancient versions of Jerry Falwell, John Hagee, and Pat Robertson, in other words fundie ancient Jewish kooks.

    A society that spent all it’s time stoning people to death for trivial thought crimes almost certainly wouldn’t last back then. While they are busy stoning each other to death, the neighboring tribes would just walk in and take them over. Back then, attacking neighboring groups was routine if you could get away with it.

  26. To me the single most ludicrous example of Jewish logic-chopping is the eruv. God says “Don’t leave Jewish property on the Sabbath”. Man says “Okay, we’ll put up a holy piece of wire on poles around the whole suburb, then that makes it our property.”

    Because God is looking down from above, see, so he can’t tell that it’s only a wire… no, I just can’t make it even remotely sensible.

    Can they really think their God is THAT stupid?

    1. You have to wonder. This is the guy who allegedly created all the heavens and the earth just so he could have humans to play with. Then he couldn’t even do that right: Almost out the gate “Satan the devil” takes over, and Jehovah has been trying to play catch-up ever since. Or so say the Christian and Jewish theists.

  27. “Some Orthodox Jews won’t even flip light switches or tear toilet paper: that’s done in advance.”

    Well, now, which is harder work, the tearing of, or the wiping with? And surely the wiping is more akin to work than flipping a light switch.

    And is there religious guidance as to how much one tears off? Is it proportional to sphincter dimensions and tonus?

    Is breaking wind considered work? How about if one is constipated, and really has to “work at it” in the toilet (where, after all, one “toils” or works)?

    Is brushing ones teeth considered work? is squeezing toothpaste onto the toothbrush considered “work,” and must be similarly done in advance?

  28. Religious Love and Tolerance? I wrote to Bonnie Lange, editor of The Truth Seeker, to see if she had any copies of The Limerick Bible or The Bible in the Balance, leaflets produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism and The Truth Seeker in the early years of the 20th century. She responded with this message:

    “I’m sorry Steve we do not have the piece you are looking for. In 1981 the Truth Seeker office was torched front and back and we lost everything in the fire. This was in the middle of the night and all the books, archives and everything since our beginning was destroyed. Bonnie Lange”

    The Truth Seeker continues as a magazine, and a book distributor. http://www.banned-books.com/

  29. To say that Jewish and Christian extremism are improvements over Islamic extremism is true. Then again, Mussolini and Franco were improvements over Hitler. Somehow I don’t fancy living under any of these people.

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