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.