Dealing With Non-Arguments About the Bible: a Reflection

If you spend any time tooling around the internet, skimming through the abyss that is social media, more than likely you are going to run into, what I have come to know as “the ignorant atheist”, and there are a lot of them out there. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were honest atheists, if they actually made their minds up based on actual evidence rather than characterizations. I usually don’t go around “trolling” the vast wasteland of the internet looking for atheists, but I do keep a Facebook page for friends and family, a Twitter account for news and social commentary, and I have recently began keeping up with a Google+ account because it is tied to the YouTube channels that I like to follow. Of course, Google+ throws a lot of stuff at you, usually stuff that really doesn’t interest me, but occasionally a post will appear that I simply must comment on because it will have the most inane saying attached to it. And of course, being a logical, thinking person, I simply must analyze it for what it is saying.

Usually, I write just a short paragraph, or a single statement along with a simple, three to five point syllogism to explain why the statement is either illogical in its conclusions, or baseless in its assumptions. Most of the time it is ignored, or someone will make an ad hominem or some other type of remark about it, usually though it is the final statement, I guess because either people have no idea how to respond or realize they can’t.

Occasionally, someone will attempt to respond, usually by attacking one of the premises of my argument, and of course, they won’t, or can’t, come up with an argument on their own to refute either the conclusion or the premise itself which they are attacking; however, it almost never seems to fail that at some point they will bring up something about the Bible and attempt to slander what it says. Of course, what is the most popular attacks against it: that it condones slavery, misogyny, and murder, particularly of homosexuals. I often have to laugh at that point, because it is obvious that they simply do not know what they are talking about.

The first obvious point is that they confuse condoning a behavior with regulating it. Paul Copan has done wonderful work on this point by researching both the economic and societal factors of slavery in the Old Testament period between Israel’s exodus from Egypt and the end of the New Testament period. Further, it is based on a word that did not appear in most English translations until after the end of antebellum slavery in the US. If one reads the text they discover some fascinating points:
1. Human trafficking was illegal and, in fact, punishable by death.
2. The type of servitude was of the indentured type, had limits, and was (supposed to be) heavily regulated.
3. It was a way for aliens to gain citizenship into the nation of Israel.
These three points alone undo the claim.

Misogyny is one of the most difficult claims to deal with, but has a lot to do with how words from the original languages are translated or rendered into English, and for some reason translators seem to be reluctant to give any clarity at all to exactly what a word means. Often times the word can be correctly rendered at one place and then completely missed at another. If you’ve ever had to deal with how badly Deuteronomy 22:28 is rendered in most translations, by using the word rape. It is often a pet verse of those bringing the charge. The problem is that word just doesn’t fit the context of the passage, nor is it supported by the original language. A better translation would be something along the lines of statutory rape, where a person does not have the legal authority to consent to the sex act, even if it is consensual. A case where a bad translation itself rapes the verse of its context and its application in its context. The problem is best solved by looking at v.25 of the same chapter, which prescribes the death penalty for the perpetrator for something that is clearly forcible rape and contrasting the two. Any sensible person can clearly see that these two are different circumstances, with entirely different prescriptions, no matter how poorly the passage is translated. But in that time, in the midst of those cultures that inhabited those lands, where women were considered property, the fact that a woman’s sexuality was so prized, and a person’s word so treasured, these laws were unheard of for what they proposed: that a woman was not a sexual play-thing, but a person worthy of respect, with protections built into the law for them. Maybe they were primitive, maybe they didn’t do enough, but they were a starting point, and that fact ought to be appreciated.

Probably the biggest hurdle comes from dealing with Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13. If they are taken alone, yes they are a problem, the problem is that they are not meant to be taken alone. Beginning in Leviticus 18:6, God lays out an indictment of the nations that inhabited Canaan, it just so happens that among that indictment is the sin of homosexual practice. Chapter 20 lays out punishment for the people and inhabitants of the nation of Israel who practice those sins for which those other nations have been condemned, which include, but aren’t limited to, incest, adultery, and bestiality in their practice, within that nation. Why don’t (the vast majority of) Christians go around stoning adulterers, those involved in incestuous relationships, and those who practice bestiality? Because those laws were for that place in that time, but the principle still remains, backed up by medical, social, and psychological sciences.

Sadly though, it is the ignorance of both believers and atheists who would rather have a hobby-horse to ride than step into the light of reason and rational thought and invest a little time and energy understanding the argument rather than decrying it for no good reason.

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10 comments

  1. Linuxgal · June 11, 2014

    I especially like the part in the Bible where it says “If your warm fuzzy heavily regulated indentured servant working toward Israeli citizenship dies under the lash, you’re in big trouble, but if you just crack his ribs and destroy his kidneys and he lives for a day or two after the whipping, it’s all good, because he’s your property.”

    Women’s sexuality was so prized that if she went out and got some action on the side, then according to Numbers 5 she was to be given an abortificant. Adoption is so passe. So much for the Pro Life thing, eh?

    My favorite part of your post, however, is when you assert the Law of Moses was directed against the nations of Canaan. In Deuteronomy 5 it says, “The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.” The surrounding nations of Canaan weren’t there and made no such covenant.

    But atheists are the ones who are ignorant.

    • jakecole0171 · June 11, 2014

      Yes, they are, because they often miss passages like Leviticus 19:33-34:
      When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you must not oppress him.
      The foreigner who resides with you must be to you like a native citizen among you; so you must love him as yourself, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
      And 25:43, You must not rule over him harshly, but you must fear your God.
      Those who violated those laws risked losing their investment in their laborers and servants if they ran away, because the law forbade their return to their master.

      Yes, muddy water will cause an abortion. Really? Numbers 5:16 “‘Then the priest will bring her near and have her stand before the Lord.
      17 The priest will then take holy water in a pottery jar, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle, and put it into the water.
      Here’s Rademacher’s take on this verse: “…there is a sense in which this law ameliorated the harsh realities for a woman in this time period. A woman could be divorced in the ancient world on the mere suspicion of unfaithfulness. Without the limitation of laws such as this, a woman might even have been murdered by a jealous husband just on the suspicion of unfaithfulness. Here at least there was an opportunity for the woman to prove her innocence before an enraged husband.” This was never about the woman, as much as abating the husband’s jealousy.
      Ignorant, and unable to read in context, yes. Who is Moses speaking to in Deuteronomy 5? V.1, “Hear, O Israel…”
      You tried.

  2. Linuxgal · June 11, 2014

    On one hand we’re told God only gave the Law to the folks who were actually at Horeb, and the next thing you know he’s doing end of the world stuff to the pagans for breaking the law against idolatry by worshiping their OWN gods. “I will also destroy the idols, and I will cause their images to cease out of Noph; and there shall be no more a prince of the land of Egypt: and I will put a fear in the land of Egypt.” And today Christians beat me and my pal over the head with Leviticus even though lesbians aren’t even mentioned in the whole book. I guess “mankind shall not lie with mankind as though lying with womankind” also miraculously means “womankind shall not lie with womankind as though lying with mankind”. Go figure.

    • jakecole0171 · June 11, 2014

      Ever thing to ask why? God is not the God of just Israel, he is the God of all mankind, which is why Paul could write to the Roman church in such a way as this, found in Romans 1:
      18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness,
      19 because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
      20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.
      21 For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened.
      22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
      23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

      There is only ONE God. And their abandoning of that God filled their land with violence

    • jakecole0171 · June 11, 2014

      So much so, that God visited them in judgment, likewise when Israel broke their Covenant God judged them with Assyria and Babylon.

      Also, if you believe that men and women are moral equals, then a law addressed to the sexual behavior of a man can equally apply to a woman, which furthers Paul’s argument in Romans 1:
      24 Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.
      25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
      26 For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones,
      27 and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
      28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.
      29 They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips,
      30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents,
      31 senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless.
      32 Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.

      All of that is drawn from the Mishnah and the Talmud, which deal with the application of what is found in the Torah. You want to argue over the specifics of language, rather than equality of application.

  3. Linuxgal · June 11, 2014

    “There is only ONE God. And their abandoning of that God filled their land with violence”

    That’s not what I get from the Old Testament. In fact, the God of Israel declared that worshiping other gods was a sin. If there was really only one god, then the sin of idolatry would be like having one man and one woman as the sole survivors of the human race and the man declares that if the woman sleeps with another man it’s a sin.

    • jakecole0171 · June 11, 2014

      I’m sure that in some universe that makes sense, just not in this one.

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