Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Sex and violence in the Bible

A recent court order that forced a local pay-TV provider in South Africa to shut down an adult-content channel, has provoked a profusion of stormy discussions on social networking sites.

There are two very definite camps. On the one hand those who "thank the Lord" that South Africa has not leaned that far into the liberal camp that "our children's minds will be polluted with that filth." On the other there are those who say simply "live and let live" and "you don't have to pay for it if you don't want it" and "you can always change the channel if you don't like it."

This gave rise to a question in my own mind: how do the "thank the Lord" camp firstly explain how they know that adult channels on TV are necessarily "filth" and, secondly, how do they explain the amount of "filth" contained in the book that they leave lying around their homes in prominent places and and even encourage their children to read. I'll come back to this in a minute.

This is 2012 not 1812, we openly discuss sex, with our children and each other, and make no secret of the origins of their baby brothers and sisters when our children ask the question. We actively encourage our children to ask questions, and teach them to be responsible about how they choose the people with whom they engage in sex acts. It's not as if sex is a big secret to anyone, anymore. Also do we really want our courts to censor our entertainment, and if we allow and "thank the Lord" for their decision to close this channel, how long will it be before they demand that any channel that does not encourage their personal vision of their place in the universe, should be "shut down" and revert to the day where we are no longer allowed to see anything that does not promote the creationist point of view?

To return to the hypocrisy of the "thank the Lord" camp, allow me to demonstrate the sort of thing they refuse to discuss but that the openly and without a second thought, actually give to their children to read:

Judges 19 22Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.23And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.24Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.25But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.26Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light.27And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way:and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold.28And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.29And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.

There's more: to post what I've already said on a popular social networking site:

2 Kings 2: 23And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.

24And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

Genesis 19:
The men of Sodom demand the angels who've come to see Lot so that they may know him, he offers his unmarried daughters instead, but they refuse so his family escapes.

Genesis 19:
Lot's daughters get him drunk and have sex with him producing a son each.

1 Samuel 18:27
David and his men went out and killed two hundred Philistines. He brought their foreskins and presented the full number to the king so that he might become the king's son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.

Genesis 34:
The rape of Dinah when Jacob sons circumcise all the rapists and then kill them and take all their goods, because one of the men had raped their sister.

Genesis 12:
Abraham is short of money so he offers his wife (who incidentally is also his sister by another mother) to Abimelech as a sex slave, saying she's his sister. The king finds out she's his wife so he offers him money and cattle to go away. And Abraham does this not only once, but twice.  
Psalm 137:9 "Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones."

I have, in my collection of Bible verses to quote, a collection of no less than 1155 instances of violence in the Bible. This book is promoted, as the "best selling book of all time." Sometimes I think because it promotes violence and particularly violence towards women and children. But a television channel, one that the viewer has to pay in order to obtain access, and that is accessible only via a password, will "pollute our children's minds" and will "promote paedophiles to attack our children," is shut down and the "Lord" is praised, as if, if he really exists, he actually cares about what people watch  on television, while he's busy sending horrific diseases to people who are living in the most unfriendly places on earth, earthquakes, tsunamis and cruise ship disasters to others.

My personal feeling about pornography is not pertinent to this discussion because I don't judge what other consenting adults do with their bodies. I don't care if people want to have tattoos, have multiples sex partners, sleep with members of the same sex, marry people of the same sex, are prepared to have sex in front of a room full of camera operators and be paid for it, have abortions, or any of the other activities in which people engage, for a very simple reason: it is none of my business as long as the participants are consenting adults, and no one is being forced to participate.

Let us put this nonsense into perspective. Pornography is available on the internet, in adult video stores, can be downloaded from video websites and people enjoy watching it. Who am I to demand that they be prevented from doing this? I am very much in the "live and let live" camp.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The blind acceptance of ancient writing

This post applies not only to the Bible or the Quran but to all ancient texts.

I have to keep hammering this point home to the people who disagree with me when I tell them that when they say "Jesus said" or tell me some other story about an ancient text and particularly the old ones like, for instance the Histories of Herodotus.

Because there was no other way to disseminate information in the ancient world, stories were passed by word of mouth, and especially those of times before writing was invented.

If you've played the game of Chinese whispers, then you'll understand what I mean when I say that after three or four repetitions of the same basic story, details have changed. When the game is played, at least the originator of the story is in the room to verify whether the story is true to the original or not, but if the story is told over decades or centuries, the chances of its being exactly the same are so small that it could be a completely different story altogether.

This is the reason why, in a court of law when people are asked to give an eye witness account of an event, the defence will ask for the story to be verified by another or more eye witnesses or some other method because we simply cannot be relied on to repeat the same story in exactly the way it happened.

People who believe that the Bible, and more specifically the "history" in the Bible is true, are basically accepting the stories blindly in a way that they would be horrified if it was applied to them if they were accused of a crime they didn't commit.

I'm not denying that anything in the Bible or Herodotus's book or any other book may have happened exactly the way it was written, all I'm doing is saying, look for corroborating evidence. Is it possible to revive someone who has died? Is it possible for people to be impregnated by a Holy Ghost? Is it possible for the waters of a flowing sea to be parted, or for the earth to stop revolving? The rationalist says "no" but if it did happen, produce something more than the story in the Bible to verify that it did happen. The believer says that the Bible is sufficient evidence of the truth of the story. My only answer to that is that I hope that if the believer is ever accused of a crime he/she didn't commit, that they will also blindly accept the judgment of the court, based solely on the evidence found in a tabloid magazine.