Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Bible contains some strange taboos and promotes bigotry

Most people don’t read the Bible critically. Or, if they do, it’s with the intention of gaining some inspiration from its words. I thought it would be interesting to point out the verses that lay down some very strange laws that most Bible readers simple choose to ignore, or, and I’ll come to the law in another post, they simply say “Jesus nullified all the old laws.” Fine, that’s fair enough -- but what about the people who still live according to the old laws, such as Orthodox Jews and puritanical Protestants? How do they feel about the following:

Mixed livestock and cloth:
Lev 19:19 Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee.  
Thus the believer breaks the law every time he farms with modern cattle, who are mostly hybrids genetically modified to produce more milk, or modern grains. or whenever he pairs a cotton shirt with a pair of woolen trousers? Or how about polyester-cotton shirts?

Tattoos and surgery?
Lev19:28 You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you I am the LORD. 
Deuteronomy 18:1 goes further, it speaks about “making baldness between your eyes.”  There must have been some very strange customs among the people of the Near East during the first millennium BCE, otherwise why would the writers make this law? A believer would argue that the law applies to cutting flesh and getting tattoos “for the dead,” and not generally cutting the flesh for surgical reasons. My logic and my knowledge of the people of this period tells me that surgery was not in general practice, and if general “cutting of the flesh” “for the dead” was frowned on, how much more would a superstitious person frown on the removal of an infected part of the body?

In both Orthodox Jewish and Islamic custom, it is preferred that dead bodies not be autopsied because of this law. They want to bury the whole body, and not leave parts behind. Therefore, in strict adherence of this law, surely it is also forbidden to remove body parts while the person is alive? So every time a Muslim or a Jew undergoes surgery to remove some diseased part of the body, they are breaking this law. This must really get Allah/Yahweh riled up.

Washing in blood
Revelation 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.
I’m commenting on this one purely from the point of view of “grossness” and its “yuck” value. Imagine that you are washed in human blood when your sins are forgiven? I don’t know if I like this metaphor. Why did they not simply say that he died as a sacrifice, and leave it there? Why drag the nastiness of blood-smearing into the picture, and imagine how children feel about this?

Antichrists, liars and gossips
I’ll have more to say about “antichrists” in another post. On the one hand, the New Testament preaches about judging, and on the other it calls people, like myself and other atheists, “antichrists.”
1 John 2:22-23  Whoever denies  that Jesus is the Christ  is a liar and an antichrist. 
1 John 4:3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 
1 John 1:8-10 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
2 Timothy 2:16-18 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.17Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.
The words in “Timothy” speak of “godless chatter.” Does this mean that all conversation has to be about Jesus? It is apparently very wrong to read the tabloids, or to discuss the silliness of celebrities if you are an adherent of New Testament religion.  Watching Oprah has to be a really terribly sinful act, as is the viewing of award shows or perhaps even the news. Is this the reason that most believers don’t bother to read newspapers? Then what about the politicians on the religious “right” who go out of their way to defame their opponents, and who revel in the downfall of the other party? Surely they are sinning and showing themselves to be infected by the “gangrene” of “idle chatter?”

Racism and bigotry
Genesis 9:26-27 He also said, Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.  
Joshua 9:27 And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose
Matthew 6:5-6 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 
Matthew 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell
Titus 1:12 The people of Crete are  always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 
2 Chronicles 14:12 So the LORD defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.
I don’t really have to point out that these verses incite racism and bigotry. Noah’s son, Ham, who “uncovered his father’s nakedness” in Genesis 9:22, was removed from the family to Canaan, to become a “slave” to his brothers. The Nationalist Party in Apartheid South Africa used these verses as their justification for their racist policies. 

If the law of the Old Testament is no longer valid, do the words of Titus justify bigotry towards metaphorical people of “Crete?” Or are those words to be interpreted as meaning the actual people of the Mediterranean island? In which case, adhering to the strict word of the New Testament means that God approves of his followers judging the people of Crete as “liars, evil beasts [and] slow bellies.” 

Apart from that one direct mention, note the comment about “hypocrites” who openly pray before others, such as people who loudly intone prayers around their relatives who are in hospital, or who pray over food in public.  I wonder if praying in church counts as openly praying?

Most people are aware that the Bible approves of slavery...
Exodus 21:7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. 
Exodus 21:5-6 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.    
Leviticus 25:44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
Luke 12:47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did  according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 
...but is the boring of an ear really necessary? Also note the justification in Luke for the disciplining of recalcitrant slaves, or servants. This from a religion that also preaches treating your “fellow man” the way that you would wish to be treated. 
Alcohol, drunkenness and abstinence
Gen.9:20  And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard
Genesis 19::32-33 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father. That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and lay with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
Leviticus 10:9:You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come
Numbers 6:3 he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins.
Deuteronomy 29:6:You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.
1 Kings 16:8:In the twenty and sixth year of Asa king of Judah began Elah the son of Baasha to reign over Israel in Tirzah, two years. And his servant Zimri, captain of half [his] chariots, conspired against him, as he was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza steward of [his] house in Tirzah.
Matthew 26:29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom. 
Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Timothy 5:23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
The planting of vineyards is good, but the drinking of wine is not? Or should the believer drink wine rather than water, but not get drunk? It seems that the water in the old days wasn’t any better than the water we’re supplied with today, and that people were just people then, as they are now. Someone should tell all the believers in “temperance” and “sobriety” that God approves of drinking, he just doesn’t approve of drunkenness.

Wastefulness and profligacy
Luke 15:13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.
John 6:12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.”
I’m not too bothered about the Bible disapproving of wastefulness. I only wish that the people who believe in the Bible would note that the New Testament advocates that believers should not be wasteful. However, my posts here are not intended as a platform my own opinions on pollution and the environment. All I’m doing with these verses is pointing out that there are some good ideas but that it’s a pity that the people who deny scientific warnings about the dangers of a “throwaway” society, don’t bother to heed the words of these writers.

It seems to me that believers pick and choose which of the Bible’s verses still apply. My knowledge of those who believe indicates that they disapprove of tattoos based on the Old Testament verse, but (most of them) don’t worry too much that the same verse forbidding surgery. It also seems that treating servants badly, and racial discrimination, are quite alright but gossip is not, except when it comes to pointing out the mistakes that celebrities make. Furthermore, it seems as if the Bible holds the view that drinking is fine, as long as it doesn’t lead to drunkenness, and, finally, that the verses warning against waste are simply to be ignored. None of this makes sense.

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