Friday, January 12, 2007

Not for the Faint of Heart

Hi all,

Please do not click on the links below if you are made queasy by graphic content. Also, if you are a Christian, please understand that I am not attacking you personally. The point is to bring into sharp focus the ethical implications of some biblical passages, and ask ourselves if it's morally ok to endorse and defend such behavior and/or teachings -- no matter what its source. We do the same when we criticize the putatively unethical teachings of other religions and belief systems; intellectual honesty and consistency requires us to apply the same standards to our own views, avoiding excuses and special pleading at all costs. Our standards of evaluation shouldn't fluctuate when we turn them on ourselves.

With that said, I feel obligated to denounce what is heinously unethical. The truth isn't always pretty, and pernicious ideas should be exposed and confronted. Without further ado, then here, here, here, and here are some rather graphic illustrations of the meaning of some biblical passages.

If these passages were in any other religious text, wouldn't you condemn such teaching/behavior as morally reprehensible? Read the surrounding passages to make sure you're not reading them out of context. Did it help make you feel any better about these passages? If these passages, and their surrounding contexts, were in any other religious text, and an apologist for that religion gave a sophisticated answer about how "times were different back then", or "God's morality is higher than ours", or "Allah, (or Vishnu, or...) made us; he can do anything he wants with us", or "you don't understand, those people (including the slaves and "little ones" and "young girls who haven't yet known any man by sleeping with him") were really wicked -- they deserved what they got", etc., would that diminish your moral outrage with respect to that religion or its god? Why, then, should it help in these cases?

Sincerely,

exapologist

2 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

I've seen these before. That helps to paint the whole picture doesn't it?

Roger said...

So long as the 'whole picture' adds up to a propaganda poster. ;)

It really depends, exapologist. If I read those things in a religious text, then saw that the people whose religion leaned strongly on the text were largely responsible for ending slavery, building hospitals, promoting charity and peace - well, then I'd start to ask what was going on. I'd listen to them talk; maybe they had explanations for those passages, ranging from 'they were not the end all, be all of the situation (oral law and other such factors were in play)' to 'they were, in a world where death is the universal rule even in times of peace, perhaps necessary to bring about a future good'.

I'd have a look at the people, how they lived, how they acted, and what they believed in - realizing that a book is an incomplete record of knowledge, as all books are meant to be read and interpreted by individuals and groups. And if I saw that they were, when all is said and done, promoting peace, charity, justice, and hope.. well, then I'd go back to the person who highlighted those passages, and ask them - why is it you didn't offer the complete story here?

Keep in mind - you ask this in an age where (among other christian religious leaders) the Pope(s) meets with lamas, mullahs, and monks, urging tolerance and cooperation. Meanwhile, words like "Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them" are found, not by centuries-old writings of monks, or millenia-old writings of priests - but in the past few years, by atheists.

So I guess, nicely summed up, my answer would be: But so many of us believers already look upon the faiths of others, see their histories, their past writings, and realize that the subject is complicated. We even, as PJP2 (among others) have said, recognize that there is truth and value in their faiths.

Meanwhile, we have atheists who talk about how stupid and dangerous all those religious people are, and how they must be dealt with - either by force of culture, or maybe, just maybe, harsher methods.

Thank you, I'll take the (ha ha) devil I know.

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