Christian moral teachings, as derived from the Bible, are a contradictory mess of historical myths about human nature combined with a pseudo-historical account which produces a confusing, weird and inappropriate set of morals. From sex abuse to Christian attitudes towards women, gays, blacks, slavery, Jews and to human dignity in general, Christianity has highlighted and encoded human evil at its worst. It is only against Christian moral theory that Christian heroes have battled to do good. The Christian concept of original sin - the punishment of future generations for the sins of parents, and God's example behaviour in the Bible, are monstrously immoral, and other traditional sets of values such as the seven deadly sins and ten commandments are, when you actually inspect them, more suited to barbarians than civilised man. Christianity's best morals happen to also be those espoused by nearly every other religion and philosophy and as such, in itself, Christianity is morally worthless and has contributed nothing to the world.
This page: Just because parts of the Bible are untrue or results of error and human invention, does not mean that its stories have no worth as moral guidance. However frequently in addition to fallibility, the Bible presents immoral guidelines. This page is a summary of some of the myths, stories or events in the Bible which present anti social or immoral ethics.
It is not as easy as a layman would guess to find out what Christian morals actually are. Despite what some religious folk claim, especially Christians and Muslims, it simply isn't possible to have a "Book of Truth" that can be read objectively, with a shared meaning agreed upon by everyone, especially when it comes to moral instruction and ethics. It is impossible to derive "absolute morals" from holy books like The Bible and The Qur'an. Unfortunately, because many religionists think that correct interpretation is of extreme importance, then, all these different possible conclusions lead to schism and the formation of competing denominations, often violently opposed to others who haven't come to the same conclusions.
Language: When we read, our brains interpret the words according to our understanding of language. Prof. Loughlin warns about this when it comes to lawmaking. He says "language has an open-textured quality", "there is an inherent vagueness in the ordinary use of language [...] and, because of this, rules - even if we accept that they have a core of settled meaning - are often surrounded by a penumbra of uncertainty [... and] often acquire meaning within particular contexts"2. Thomas Paine gave us the same warning, saying that "Human language is local and changeable, and is therefore incapable of being used as the means of unchangeable and universal information"3.
Subjectivism: Our own wild experiences in life, our own flawed understandings, both conspire continually to colour everything we see in the world. In epistemology, this basic fact is called subjectivism and the subjective nature of our perception of reality is one of the oldest topics in human philosophy, going back thousands of years4.
“Subjectivism is a problem of epistemology (theory of knowledge). The word describes the fact that we can only understand the world through our own senses and our own rational deliberations, in conjunction with our own limited experience in life. Our brains are imperfect organic machines, not a mystical repository of truth. Our senses are imperfect, our point of view limited, and the reality we experience is never the total picture. Our divergent contexts result in each of us interpreting, understanding and perceiving the world differently to one another even when looking at the same stimulus. Human thought is infused with systematic thinking errors. Our knowledge of absolute reality is hampered by our limited insights and imperfect brains, and we can never truly escape from the shackles of our own minds. Our total take on reality is a mix of guesses and patchwork. These problems have been debated by the most ancient philosophers, thousands of years ago, and no practical answers have yet been forthcoming.4.”
Personal Bias: When people approach a religious text or any large book from which they intend to derive ethical teachings, nearly without exception the person will pick up the book and pay very particular attention to all the morals they already agree with. The philosopher George Smith says that "Christian theologians have a strong tendency to read their own moral convictions into the ethics of Jesus. Jesus is made to say what theologians think he should have said"5. A homophobe will pick up the Christian Bible and realise that homosexuality is an evil sin. A misogynist will pick up the Bible or Qur'an and realise that after all this time he's right: Women are inferior, and he can quote the Bible or Qur'an to prove it. A fluffy liberal will read it and find all the hippy love-thy-neighbour bits and therefore will be able to prove that all those homophobes and misogynists have it wrong. In arguing against extremism, Neil J. Kressel6 points out that "everyone picks and chooses, at least a little. Everyone interprets"7.
Complexity and Contradictions: Long texts that dance with moral issues suffer from the problem that some morals in one place step on the toes of other morals in other parts. The debates over which verses have precedence over others is a major symptom of this issue. In addition because of the volume of text and its frequent obscurity and complexity, there is plenty of scope for the imagination, and for personal bias, to find a way to interpret lines in a way that beat to the drum of the reader. Because of the kaleidoscope of different plotlines and levels of possible interpretation, one's subconscious and imagination is given accidental freedom to invent all kinds of morals.
There is not a single moral "absolute" in the Bible that I cannot find a contradiction for in the very same book. For example, it is said by Bible believers that "do not steal" is an absolute moral found in the Bible, yet in the Bible we also find text where, under direct orders from God, people have stolen. There are serious and multifaceted contradictions between the OT and NT - some choose to get around this simply by ignoring Old Testament morals because they say they were overriden by the New Testament - but continue to use the bits that they like8. Prof Dawkins does a good job of explaining why such disparaties can exist all within one book::
“Much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and 'improved' by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries. This may explain some of the sheer strangeness of the Bible. But unfortunately it is this same weird volume that religious zealots hold up to us as the inerrant source of our morals and rules for living.”
Most Holy Books' Texts is Not About Morals: Most stories in holy books are about personalities - tales about what people are said to have done what. Most of them also involve war and cultural struggles between different peoples, and are often written from within one particular geographical area. It is possible to read these stories and take out of them a wide range of morals, and therefore, to think that these indirect lessons have divine mandate. The same occurs with all long texts. Take Tolkien's Lord of the Rings - it is very much like the Bible (in style), and it is clear to see that you could spend your entire life analyzing it for morals. Many people who undertook such a task would come to different conclusions, just as with Holy Books. The simple fact remains that the parts of the text that say "Here follows a moral rule, to be obeyed by all people for all time" are very infrequent indeed. The Qur'an is much more frank than the Bible, but is still mostly about the retelling of events.
See if you can work out if the following questions are being raised with regards to The Lord of the Rings, The Bible, or the Qur'an:
The people in the book all have their own aims, which are relevant to the topic of the book and the life circumstances of that person. Most people's actions are simply not centered around any wish to provide universal instruction on behaviour - it's all about their problems at that time.
Using characters from within this book we would find many seemingly contradictory morals. For example, for the side of Good, there is much killing to be done, yet part of the morals is that the bad guys kill people.
People interpret the "real meanings" behind various stories in hugely varying ways, and volumes of books have been written on such interpretations based on political and moral undertones.
The answer is that this describes all large books written by Humans. Attempts to read them as places for moral instruction is itself the problem, and the cause of schism, violent disagreements and fundamentalism.
Cultural Context: As time passes, the original cultural assumptions and cultural understanding of phrases and words will all change, making it impossible for many things to be understood by future audiences in the same way that the original authors meant them. The longer ago something was written, the less the context is clear to us today, and this opens the way for much culturally subjective opinion. "Love thy neighbour as thyself" has meant various things at various times: A land of barbarians may feel quite free to brutalize others just as they brutalize themselves10, whereas band of 1970s hippies spread love in a much more physical way. Over time, morals are simply read into texts differently, hence why religious prohibitions change over time too. We read text literally, chronologically and philosophically, but both The Koran and much of The Bible was written in prose, in poetry, using many symbolic aspects and word games. Shifts in time and place mean that there are unknown cultural references that we cannot possibly understand now, even if text that we think we are reading correctly.
As a society changes its moral views, its interpretation of Biblical texts changes with it. This much is common sense. The force of that change is often within society itself. The reading of morals from the Bible changes alongside society, but generally speaking lags by a generation or two. Examples are in diverse areas such as the abolition of slavery, birth control, women's rights, gay equality, individualism (i.e. sola scripture, decentralized church), race equality and religious freedom11.
“The Churches have steadily become more like reflectors of the practice of the times, gradually and hesitatingly endorsing change. In the emphasis on 'getting up to date' the Churches tacitly recognize their own increasingly marginal capacity to influence society. The shifts of Church response on the issue of birth control illustrate the way in which moral theologians have attempted to come to terms with the changing moral practice of societies which they increasingly realize they know very little about. [...] By 1958, theologians had begun to accept the lead of social scientists. They refer to 'the quantity and complexity of sociological information', and [...] the Scriptures, revelation, papal and Episcopal pronouncements had ceased to be accepted, even by clerics, as adequately prepared guidance for society.”
Translations: All of the above problems come together when translations of holy texts are made. One thing that fundamentalists do get right is their determined and enviable attempts to read scripture in its original language (which is easier for Muslim Arabs who still speak the same language the Koran was written in). But we have very few of the original texts of our major religions. We rely on copies-of-copies-of-copies, which at some point, have often been translated - quotations changed from Aramaic to Greek, entire texts from Latin to English, based on Greek translations. We know that even from very early on numerous mistranslations have been introduced13, such as the mistaken usage of the word "virgin" to describe the prophecy of Jesus' birth since the major Septuagint translation.
It is surprising that anyone thinks a god would attempt to communicate with us in any particular language, let alone ancient ones. If I was god, I would transmit my message directly into everyone's brain. That way problems with translation and subjectivism would be removed and people could make informed decisions and moral choices based on the full facts, rather than miscommunicated ideals. This would end all translation and transmission problems too.
Clearly, no gods have imparted such a universal moral message into the minds of mankind. If there is a supreme and omniscient creator god then it is responsible for creating the way that our brains work. Such a being knows that we can only interpret life subjectively, and that no text will mean the same thing for any two people. Therefore by design, any sacred text must only be designed by God for the specific culture into which the text arose.
There has been a long Christian history of horrible explanations of evil, wherein all blame is put on the victims. Disabled people, stillborn babies, the suffering of children and adults alike has all, from time to time, been explained as punishment for their sins. If not actual behaviour, then for thought crime, and, sometimes, the punishment itself is in order to prevent some serious sin happening in the future. The theory goes that God never punishes people through random bouts of suffering by accident: everything is part of God's plan. If suffering seems unjust and unfair, then, it is merely the case that God is judging and punishing people for reasons that their fellow Humans do not comprehend. Thoughts like these kill all sense of compassion and caring, and scupper any chance of granting relief to the victim. Everything is our fault: there is no suffering of innocents, for there are no innocents. It is not our job to try and alleviate the pain that God has seen fit to bring upon us!
I am sure that most modern, moral, readers, must react in horror to such an inhumane dismissal of evil. Many may even, through wishful thinking and ignorance, disclaim that no-one has held to such a monstrous justification. But you'd be wrong. We've seen it in the Jewish Story of Job in the Bible, where poor job has done nothing wrong, and God itself blasts down a warning that no-one may question God's judgements and methods. In the Jewish spiritual book, The Talmud, it said that 'if a man sees that painful suffering visits him, let him examine his conduct' and that 'there is no suffering without sin'15. In other words: blame the victim.
“Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes humans objects in a cruel experiment whereby we are created to be sick and commanded to be well.”
Christianity followed suit, and embraced the idea of original sin. That is, we all deserve punishment simply for being human, until such a time as we are saved, if we ever are. This was not mere philosophizing - the Christian church in the dark ages really did ban medicine and physicians on the grounds that our bodies deserve their pains and diseases. The same went for childbirth - it is painful and dangerous for women, because God made it that way as a punishment for all women17 (Genesis 3:14-19). Midwifery was banned. Their activities were seen as a "direct affront to the divinely ordained pain of childbirth" and, according to a Scottish clergyman, "vitiating the primal curse of women"18. For the same reasons, "when the great American discovery of anaesthetics was applied in obstetrical cases, it was discouraged [because] it was an impious attempt to escape from the curse denounced against all women in Genesis iii. 16" - Draper (1881)19, also told by Stanton (1898)20. Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, taught the same: The following statement epitomizes the Christian approach to female welfare: "If they become tired or even die", Luther wrote, "that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth - that is why they are there"21.
This outright dismissal of pain and suffering arises because religious theology cannot answer the fundamental question as to why there is evil and suffering in the world. The result is a morality that can have a profoundly negative effect on human compassion.
For more, see the following page, from which the above section was taken:
There are a hundred verses in the Bible that are immoral, including rape, pillaging, all kinds of sexual violence, murder, stealing, parts that state you must hate your parents, kin, etc. There are thousands of books and web pages that attempt to list those shortcomings. The most dangerous aspect of white light religion is the belief that if you think God wants you to do something, then it is for a greater moral good to go ahead and do it.
“Saint Augustine's maxim, Dilige et quod vis fac - if you but love [God], you may do as you incline - is morally one of the profoundest of observations, yet it is pregnant, for such persons, with passports beyond the bounds of conventional morality.”
Madmen, political leaders and Christian militants have all justified their own violent actions under the belief that if they think God wants it, then they can therefore do it, regardless of the cost to society. The Dark Ages, Europe's darkest centuries, were steeped in ignorance and blood under this type of rule. It is dangerous indeed to assume that we know what God wants or that God's whims are moral. Popes and leaders of the Crusades would often use this logic.
“Anyone who fought in the war against God's enemies would earn the remission of all temporal penalties due for his sins; anyone who was killed fighting for Him would thereby gain absolution.”
It is highly important to give a person unconditional love during their upbringing. A child that does not have a backbone of security against which to launch itself will be less healthy psychologically. It is important that even when a child does wrong, that there is still unconditional love. This is a parenting must. Whatever happens, the child is worth it, is moral, is good.
The Christian mythology implies that the opposite is true. That no matter what happens, the child is a sinner and must repent. They must actively seek out advice and reflect on their inherent badness. They are influenced by Satan, they are imperfect and they are bound to hell unless they accept this.
“I once prayed to god for a bike, but quickly found out he didnt work that way... so I stole a bike and prayed for his forgiveness.”
It is immoral to tell people or imply that they are inherently a sinner. If we want people to do good they must know that they are not inherently bad, that they are capable of anything they put their minds to. Telling people that they are wholly dependent on a person far removed from our age and time for their salvation externalizes their own goodness, and creates a Christian guilt complex that can be hard to overcome.
If we externalized the things that make us good, if we are told we are influenced by Satan (an evil force), then our egos suffer, our confidence suffers and we end up feeling that we cannot do good off our own backs. It is better to say that "you are a good person, but everyone makes mistakes" and avoid the concept of "sin" judged by an ethereal spirit altogether.
“Once thou had passions and called them evil. Now hast thou only thy virtues? : They grew out of thy passions. Thou didst set thy highest goal amidst these passions: thus became thy virtues and thy delights.”
Many of our good instincts come from things that from a 3rd person point of view appear to be bad. Trying to judge these things is wrong - everyone is motivated by things that are seen as good as well as bad, and trying to differentiate between them is unnatural and leads to instability and misguided behaviour.
Punishing a person for a crime is a cornerstone of justice. But what about punishing families, their children, their grandchildren, and in a few hundred years' time, their grand grand grand children, for the crimes of one of their fathers? Horrendous and crazy as this sounds, it is a theme repeated in the Bible as part of the infallible and perfectly good justice of God:
“No man who has been castrated or whose penis has been cut off may be included among the Lord's people. No one born out of wedlock or any descendant of such a person, even in the tenth generation, may be included among the Lord's people.”
“"I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation. But I show my love to thousands of generations of those who love me and obey my laws.”
“I keep my promise for thousands of generations and forgive evil and sin; but I will not fail to punish children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation for the sins of their parents.”
These Old Testament morals were recognized by most laypeople to be unconscionable, and Christianity of the first few centuries included many Christian communities who rejected the idea of inherited sin. But Pauline-Cappadocian Christianity, which grew to become the Catholic Church, found that there was much use in retaining the idea of generational sin, despite its immorality. By making themselves, the Catholic priesthood, the centralized arbiters of absolution, they could earn almost infinite wages from indulgences - which is where laypeople pay the Church for the absolution of sin. One group that rejected this idea was the Pelagians, who followed the teachings of Pelagius that humankind had free will, and that we were only sinners in so far that we went against God. Therefore, there was no such thing as automated inherited sin. The Church Father Augustine took up the battle against the idea of moral free will:
“[Augustine] believed that Adam's 'sin was a despising of the authority of God... it was just that condemnation followed...' Augustine wrote to the bishop of Rome in 416, warning him that Pelagian ideas undermined the basis of episcopal authority and that appeasing the Pelagians would threaten the Catholic Church's new-found power. Augustine's friend, the African bishop Alypius, brought 80 Numidian stallions to the imperial court as bribes to persuade the Church to side with Augustine against Pelagius. Augustine won. In April of 418 the pope excommunicated Pelagius. Ever since, the Catholic Church has officially embraced the doctrine of hereditary transmission of original sin.”
The injustice of this moral theory has been commented upon by a great number of critics of Christianity.
“For two thousand years man has done penance for something he never should have had to feel guilty about in the first place.”
But the Bible is a collection of writings authored by different people, at different times, for different reasons, and with different theologies. For a contrast against the "everlasting Word of God" in the verses quoted above, here is a completely contradictory "everlasting Word of God" also from the Old Testament: Ezek. 18:20: "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father".
“Punishing one person for the actions of another is immoral. If we use the Adam and Eve story to explain evil, suffering and death then we are saying that God is immoral and not a forgiving God. Judging Adam and Eve even when they didn't know the difference between good and evil, when they didn't know it was wrong to disobey and couldn't understand that the serpent tricked them, is also immoral. The Adam and Eve story is not a suitable moral story for children nor is it a valid theodicy to explain evil.”
“In Genesis 22:1-18 and Qur'an 37:99-113 Abraham was tested by God and told to murder his only son. He obeyed and was about to stab Isaac to death on an altar when God changed its mind, and stops him at the last moment. Abraham was given incredible rewards for his loyalty. Abraham is one of the most holy and revered figures of the Hebrew Scriptures, yet he clearly failed this moral test: in going to murder his own son for God, he was displaying the worst signs of religion: insanity, murderous willingness to attempt spiritual gain at any cost, and an inability to question the true worth of his own beliefs. He followed criminal orders without asking why - a trend that in history has had terrible consequences yet is endorsed in the Bible. Not only that, he did not even question the highly likely probability that hearing voices is not a good thing. The Bible should teach that we ought to use our moral compass to decide if we ought to listen to the voices in ours heads! Instead, the Bible teaches we ought to murder even our own son in order to get ourselves into heaven, if it is what we think God wants.
It was said to be a test, a trial, to see if Abraham was loyal. But to say that God needed to do a test contradicts the all-knowing nature of God. The story teaches that morality is less important than obedience - a very dangerous and misguided lesson. The story is immoral, makes no sense, and contradicts scripture in multiple ways. Deut.12:30-31, Lev. 18:21, Jer. 19:4-6 and 2 Kings 16:2-4 all say that child sacrifice is an abomination (so why would God - an embodiment of absolute good - reward Abraham for attempting it?). The story cannot be true or divinely inspired, and it does not deserve the attention of good people or believers in a good god.”
Read more on this story: Lot and the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: In Genesis 18 and 19.
Lot lived in Sodom, with his wife and two daughters. Genesis 19:1-5 says that one day, three visitors arrived in the city, and Lot kindly put them up for the night but all the people of Sodom, young and old, crowded around Lot's house and wanted sex with the visitors. Lot thought it better to send out his daughters, telling the crowd they were virgins and they could do what they want with them (Genesis 19:7-8). But the men from Sodom were so immoral, they didn't want to rape his daughters - they wanted his male guests! Genesis 18:23-33- had already revealed that there are fewer than 10 righteous men in Sodom, and, therefore, God blinded the crowd and then destroyed the city (Gen. 19:11-13,24-25). Lot went on to live in a cave with his two daughters and they both had children by him (Genesis 19:3-38).
The morals of the story of Lot:
It is important to be hospitable and kind to strangers.
Safeguarding male adult guests is more important than preventing the rape of your own children.
You need not fight against immoral mobs if you can instead give them something they might want (such as your daughters).
Lot, for his bravery in trying to save his male guests by sending his daughters to get raped, was considered favourable by god, and was saved from Sodom's destruction by God's angels (Genesis 19:11-13, 15-17,19). Lot is also described as just and righteous in the New Testament (2 Peter 2:6-8). But everything to do with Lot is highly uncomfortable; his morals and priorities seem irreconcilable with any form of goodness. Any moral person, or father, would have physically fought to safeguard his daughters from mass rape. I'm sure if his guests were moral people, they'd have fought too. Safeguarding male adults at the expense of (virgin) daughters can never be the right thing to do. Lot survives and has sex with both of his own daughters, and they have children by him (Genesis 19:30-38). This horrid and unwholesome man is unfortunately endorsed by God and the Bible.
The 7 Deadly Sins, the deadly vices, are listed here in traditional order. This list goes back at least to the sixth century Pope St. Gregory the Great and St. John Cassian, but the refined the list over the years to arrive at the present seven. I will show here how each of these Christian "sins" is actually necessary for the normal functioning of a person.
|'Vice'||Virtues which requires it||Brief Explanation|
|Pride||Quality, Self respect, Achievement||Pride is positive feedback for the things that we do that are good. It is the self satisfaction behind altruism. It is the force behind one's desire to do a job well, to learn skills.|
|Greed||Generosity and Benevolence|
|Without Greed we would not know how good it is to receive, and we would not appreciate the pleasure that giving can give. If we were not greedy from time to time we would lose the art of self control.|
|We only learn to be considerate to others by knowing what it feels like to be left out, to have less: To feel envy.|
|Wrath/Anger||Patience, Friendliness||If we did not feel angry we wouldn't know how to avoid angering others. We wouldn't respect other's personal views, space or property unless we knew the anger that such violations cause. Suppressing ones anger is psychologically dangerous and leads to unstable outbursts of violence. We get angry about injustice. No anger = no social constraints.|
|Lust||Energy, Love||I think this one's neutral. Lust isn't bad, it's what you do with it that counts. Sexual energy can be redirected into many fantastic works, but can also cause unhappiness.|
|Gluttony||Gluttony can be a conditional caused by many biological, genetic and psychological causes and attacking those who suffer from these diseases is immoral, support and advice is better than classifying people as "sinners"!|
|Sloth||Sloth should be discouraged as much as possible, but not to the extent as to discourage resting. I probably agree that sloth is a sin.|
In some of the cases above the very classification of the trait as a "sin" is immoral, such as "gluttony" for the reasons given above. Surely if Christianity wishes to impose any kind of moral order the sins should at least be formulated to effect changes in people that cause them to become better people, rather than suppressing desire!
Where in this list is violence? Surely "violence" would be a better sin than "anger"? Surely "sexual violation" would be a better sin than "lust"? These sins seems to attack people regardless of how they act, you'd almost get the impression that they are an attempt to make everyone feel like a sinner and set up guilt complexes more than they attempt to rally those who are morally weak.
Different sects of Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) interpret these differently. The Bible does not contain a list of "The 10 Commandments" but they are interpreted from 3 similar passages, both of which contain more than 10 instructions.
|1. You shall have no other God||It is immoral to force "Set is your only mighty deity" on people. (Set is an evil Egyptian god). It is immoral to force any god on people. This is the golden rule - would you like it if a foreign god was forced on you?|
|2. Have no worshipped idols or imagery||Some religions require it. Telling them not to is immoral, inconsiderate and provokes antisocial behaviour.|
|3. Do not take the Lords name in vain||The exclamation "Jesus Christ" is uttered many times by atheists. It is a common English phrase in place of "Shit!". Which do you prefer?|
Can we force people not to say "Bless you" after sneezing because it offends others? Of course not. Likewise with saying "Oh god!".
|4. No person or animal shall work on the Sabbath, the Holy day.||The Sabbath is Saturday. What type of moral issue is this? It is a ridiculous and inconsiderate statement! If there is a fire on the Holy day, who would put it out?|
|5. Honour thy parents||Give honour to your parents, keep their name in good order. Unless of course, they are bad people, in which case upholding this becomes wrong. It is in a young person's interest to know that if they are abused by their parents they tell others. This commandment should not be told to children and certainly not be considered an 'absolute', never to be broken.|
|6. Do not kill||What about self defence? - what if they are going to kill you and rape your wife? Then it is more moral to kill the attacker than let him continue.|
If a person wants to die due to unrecoverable pain and misery, forcing them to live is immoral.
Killing a terrorist who is just about to attain hostages may be necessary.
|7. Do not commit adultery||Some religions have forced marriages. And members of these religions sometimes temporarily swap wives. In fact, consented wife-swapping is a growing phenomenon. It is immoral for what reason? If there is no moral reason then why is this a commandment?|
|8. Do not steal||A beggar on the streets is dying. If he steals a loaf of bread one day he lives for a day. When he steals a loaf of bread, no-one else dies as a result. Therefore in this situation it is more moral for him to have a loaf of bread by stealing than not to.|
|9. Do not lie||Lying is necessary. Santa Claus & tooth fairies are lies. When asked "Are you gay" by a violent homophobe with a gun, it is more moral to lie and live than to die. Lies can save lives, lies can cause pain, such a blanket statement as "Do not lie" is useless.|
|10. Do not covet they neighbours wife, slaves or belongings.||See the entry for Envy in the section on the 7 deadly sins.|
It is very easy to see how the first four commandments should only be used by Christians in private. Anything else amounts to inconsideracy and an attack on non-Biblical gods, it is unethical and infringes on Human Rights to force a particular (Christian) God on people when it's not what they believe.
Furthermore, commandments five and seven are not moral teachings but "advice", and ill-founded advice at that. Human Beings' natural state is polyamory and endless suffering results from our suppressing this powerful sexual instinct. Some religions allow multiple wives - do Christians want to offend them? Commandment 5 is dangerous, for the reasons given.
The tenth commandment is not moral - envy is not a thought crime, but a natural process enjoyed and employed by all people to facilitate the wish to make one's life better. Without ever knowing of better things, who would try to attain them? Should the poor be happy with their lot or should they try to get more to alleviate their poverty? The commandments would instill everyone with a guilt complex simply for being Human ... which although very a Christian thing is not moral or a psychological sound tactic to get people to behave normally!
The remaining commandments: Six, Eight and Nine do have things going for them. However, every major religion contains very similar, if not better worded, commands! The secular world recognizes and punishes these things well enough, without the need for the other seven commandments. Christians do not rationally examine these commandments; for example the following case shows the irrationality that they are bound with:
“Consider the case of Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Finding himself confronted by the sixth-highest murder rate in the nation, Justice Moore thought it expedient to install a two-and-a-half-ton monument of the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the state courthouse in Montgomery. [...] When a federal court ordered Justice Moore to remove the monument, he refused. [...] According to a Gallup poll [...] 78% of [the American people] objected to the removal of the monument. One wonders whether Moore, Ashcroft, the US Congress, and three-quarters of the American people would like to see the punishments for breaking these hallowed commandments also specified in marble and placed in our nation's courts. What, after all, is the punishment for taking the Lord's name in vain? It happens to be death (Leviticus 24:16). What is the punishment for working on the Sabbath? Also death (Exodus 31:15). What is the punishment for cursing one's father or mother? Death again (Exodus 21:17). What is the punishment for adultery? You're catching on (Leviticus 20:10).”
"The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason" by Sam Harris (2006)28
Christians consider the 10 commandments to be somehow better than other religions' proscriptions, but as you can see, if you accept that social evils such as murder are wrong then you can hardly attempt to employ the 10 commandments in a social context, where the Bible itself says that death is the acceptable result of Human misdemeanours such as working on a Sunday. If you violent fanaticism and stonings, then the 10 commandments are just as appropriate as they were during the barbarous dark ages. If you want peace, they are best left behind us in history. In either way, such petit and odd concerns hardly seem worthy of the creator of the universe.
God itself sets some very poor examples when it comes to parenting.
“Genesis 6:7 says "And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them". What does this teach us? If our children do not turn out how we wished, then, we can follow the example of the perfectly just Christian God, and destroy them. And anything around them, including animals and other people. We can deliver group punishments in accordance with the worst offenders amongst them, and, the less bad amongst them are simply unlucky to have been around at the wrong time. It seems that when it comes to good parenting, it is not to the Christian God that we should look!”
Genesis furnishes us with some additional horror in the stories of Lot and his family who lived in Sodom, and, of Abraham and his precious first son Isaac. In Genesis chapters 18 and 19, Lot is rescued from destruction by God's actions for his noble and commendable actions. What did he do? He tried to protect 3 male guests who had arrived at his house, from a mob outside who wanted to rape them. His method of protection was to send out his two virgin daughters and tell the crowd they could do as they pleased with them. In case we doubt God's judgement of Lot, Lot then goes and has children by both of his daughters. The story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis chapter 22 has Abraham obey the voices in his head which tell him to murder his only son Isaac on an altar as a sacrifice to God. Abraham complies, and is massively rewarded by God (who uncharacteristically stops him at the last moment). Any moral person would have sternly told Abraham that he failed God's test. These two stories tell us that obediance and male honour are valued far ahead of the protection of the family; rape of young daughters and child murder are both preferable to disobeying voices in your head, and risking your male guests from being mobbed.Deuteronomy 13:6-9 says that if your relatives or friends try to get you to worship other gods, firstly you must not give in to them, and secondly, you must kill them. That's right - kill your relatives if they try to draw you away from your religion, "without pity". Genesis 17:10,12,14 teaches that newborns are to be circumcized, and, those who are not are to be cast away from their friends and family. There seems to be no way to view such teachings in a moral way. The author(s) of the Bible severely lacked moral compassion and a sense of justice. Even when aiming at noble goals, such as respect for family life, the moral teachings derived from this instinct go instantly awry in the Bible - note that the punishment for cursing one's father or mother, and for adultery, is death (Exodus 21:17).
Throughout the Old Testament, male children are promised by God as the ultimate reward, women are often unable to bear children (but this fate never happens to men). Throughout the Old and New, the unequal and barbaric position of women in the family compared to men is infamously misogynistic - there are too many related verses to repeat here.
There are many morals in the Bible that offer very poor advice and which also manage to contradict other moral instructions. Colossians 3:20 says "children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord" and this is backed up by Deuteronomy 21:18-21 which says that stubborn and rebellious sons are to be stoned by the community (and you might as well accuse them of being drunkards too, because that'll make the elders more likely to comply with the stoning). These messages are of course not actually aimed at children. Very few would read such a sentence and decide to completely abandon childhood in favour of becoming an automaton. And, imagine, if the parents told their children to do immoral things, or instructed them in (god forbid!) the wrong religion, then I am sure that this particular verse would be the first to be overlooked. The Bible itself ignores this "obey your parents" verse when it says to believe in God and abandon your family (remember Matt. 10:34-37, Luke 12:51-53, 14:25 and 18:29). No, these messages are not really aimed at children but at adults, telling us to obey God, the ultimate father-figure, else we suffer the consequences.
All that divine immorality is all Old Testament stuff, isn't it? Unfortunately, in the New Testament the teachings of Jesus do not bring much in the way of hope for family life:
The concept of "Honour Thy Parents" was washed away by Jesus in the New Testament. It contradicts Jesus, who says: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father ... and a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matthew 10:34-37 and Luke 12:51-53). And in Luke 14:25-26 and 18:29, Jesus says "If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple".
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.”
“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.”
“If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.”
Jesus and his own immediate relatives, especially his mother:
“Jesus in Mark 3:31-35 leaves his "brethren and his mother" outside after they call for him; giving no reason at all for shunning them. He instead says that instead of his family, his fans were his brethren and mother. Luke 2:41-49 tells a story of a 12-year-old Jesus; he wonders off for three days and his parents search for him, before finding him in a temple. They exclaim to him that they've been looking for him sorrowfully, and his cold response is covered by the last two verses of that story: "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them". In both places a little courtesy would have cost nothing. The lack of respect continues in another story in Luke:
“When one of his women listeners was so entranced by his teaching that she cried out 'Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts that you sucked!' Jesus shrugged off this praise of his mother. She was irrelevant: 'Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it.' (Luke 11:27-28).”
Jesus only speaks to his mother three times in the Bible. The first time is the story above, where he reprimands her for not guessing where he was (when he was 12). The second time, at the feast in Cana, Jesus says to his mum, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?". And the third time was during the crucifixtion, when he said to her: "woman, behold thy son". Not a single positive comment from Jesus to his mum30! In "The Woman's Bible" by Elizabeth Cady Stanton31, the author despairs at the misogyny, and asks:”
“How is it that not one word is said about the death of Mary, not one word about the death of Joseph? How did it happen that Christ did not visit his mother after his resurrection?”
Jesus cared so little for his family that he never sent them messages informing what he was up to even when he was in their immediate locality. In Mark he is found preaching in Galilee, at the start of his ministry. His family "found out" through rumour and gossip, and presuming that he had lost his mind, set out to retrieve him back to their home to recover32.
According to the Gospel of Mathew, a man wanted to follow Jesus, but he had duties at home looking after his old and sick father. He wanted to take care of his father until he died, and then follow Jesus. He says to Jesus "let me go and bury my father first" and Jesus replies coldly "follow me, and leave the dead to bury the dead" (Matthew 8:22). This heartless response stems from the fact that all non-followers of Jesus might as well already be dead, and, that in the Bible, it is said that "the end" was so nigh that there was no more time to wait. You had to follow Jesus now or never. Karen Armstrong says that in today's terms, Jesus' answer could be understood as "put him in a geriatric home and come and follow me"33.
It is strange to hear Christians promote Christian family values as if they were a good thing, when the feelings of relatives are of such little concern to Jesus.
The large number of horrible teachings on family values are contradicted by some good ones. Proverbs 6:16-19 says that God hates those who bring conflict to brethren (family and community). The commandments to respect and honour your parents are found in Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, Ephesians 6:2. 1 Timothy 5:4 say that children and grandchildren should first of all learn to their religion into practice, by respecting and caring for their parents and grandparents. And 1 John 4:20 has Jesus say that you can't love God if you don't love your brother. So not only do we find poor family morals in the Bible, but, we find them contradictory too.
This contradictory mess results in a complete moral subjectivity; good Christians who are also good people can choose to abide by the verses that command family niceties; whereas good Christians who are bad people can choose to abide by the verses that disregard family life. This means that the Bible itself effectively teaches nothing on the subject, and all people do is attain divine assent for whichever values they already had.
Old Testament: The Hebrew Scriptures, which the Christians adopted as their Old Testament, are infamously violent. The endorsements of violence, mass murder and rape & pillage are dramatic, and are conducted under the direct commands of God for the betterment of the believer's religion34. The worry is that this gives justification for anyone who hears voices in their head telling them to murder for their religion that actually they should do so, and indeed, historically many have used the Bible to justify murder. For example, Emperor Theodosius tricked, trapped and murdered several thousand civilians from Thessalonia, and when his Bishop complained, he argued that he was acting as did David from the Old Testament35,36. Many Jewish terrorists have followed this line of logic and for hundreds of years Europe fell into the barbaric and ignorant dark ages under the terrible machinations of Christian institutions that embraced the Bible's endorsements of violence.
Exodus 15:3 states that God loves war, but it is not just enemy combatants that are the target. Exodus 22:18 has been used as the basis for murdering women accused of all manner of daft superstitious things ("thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"). Exodus 32:27-29 has the God of Israel command the army to murder sons, brothers, friends and neighbours and they are then blessed for doing so. In Numbers 31:17 they are told to murder all the children amongst the enemies and any woman who might be pregnant. Deuteronomy 7:1 tells the Israelites to occupy their future land and exterminate the original inhabitants because they are infidels: "you're to make no compromise with them or show them any mercy". Deuteronomy 13:6-9 says that if your relatives or friends try to get you to worship other gods, you must kill them "without mercy" - a deed that Abraham attempts in Genesis 22:1-18. In Deuteronomy 20:16-18 they are told to exterminate "everything that breaths". Joshua 6:21-24 and Judges 20 tell stories where God wants them to kill "everyone in the city, men, women, young and old. They also killed the cattle, sheep and donkeys. ... And they burnt the city with fire" and looted all they could. All with no morality nor sense of loss at all. 1 Samuel 15:1-8 has it that because the indigenous people of Amalek opposed God's murderous army, they killed all the men, women, children, babies, cattle, camels and donkeys there37. Likewise, in 1 Kings 18:21-40 the great prophet Elijah murders 450 followers of Baal because they follow the wrong God. Not all the slaughter is on God's chosen land: In Esther 9:12-16 the Israelites slaughter over 75,000 enemies in an internal strife in the Persian empire. In Hosea 13:16 the infants of Samaria will be "dashed in pieces" because the people no longer follow Israel's bloody God. If you are in any doubt that God commands bloodshed in his name then Jeremiah 48:10 declares that you will be cursed if you refrain from bloodshed. These examples are where it is Humans carrying out God's will and don't include the many times where God leads by murderous example.
For more, see: Endorsement of Violence and Murder in the Old Testament.
Some think that the New Testament is nicer than the OT. They are correct; it was written in much more enlightened times. But the NT still endorses violence and murder. Jesus himself declared "think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34). But for what ends is this violence to be executed? Luke 14:23 says "Compel people to come in!" for the purpose of "filling" the Church. And henceforth, Christian history contains many unfortunate chapters where Christian groups anathematized one another as heretics, and proceeded to burn, torture and murder those who disagreed. Victims have been anyone who disagreed even on confusing technical points of Christian doctrine, members of other religions such as Muslims and Jews, "witches", homosexuals, and finally, a small number who have genuinely plotted against the Church.
“The death sentence is a necessary and efficacious means for the Church to attain its end when rebels act against it and disturbers of the ecclesiastical unity, especially obstinate heretics and heresiarchs, cannot be restrained by any other penalty. [...] If there be no other remedy for saving its people it can and must put these wicked men to death.”
Pope Leo XII38
Aside from the New Testament's endorsement of killing in the name of religion, God itself leads by example. The Book of Revelation is the climax of the New Testament. God reverts to his Old Testament ways. The suffering and pain described in the apocalypse is something that a good god could never let happen. Some excerpts:
Revelation 6:8 (the 4th seal) "I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
Revelation 9:15 (the 6th seal) "And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind".
Revelation 4th Seal and 6th Seal. Here's a quick calculation assuming an initial population of 6 000 000 000:
1/4 are killed when the 4th seal is opened: 1/4 of 6.0 billion is 1.5 billion, leaving 4.5 billion survivors.
1/3 are killed then the 6th seal is opened: 1/3 of 4.5 billion is 1.5 billion, leaving 3.0 billion survivors.
Exactly half of Humankind are killed, and this calculation uses only two of the seven seals!
It is an incredibly difficult task to explain to Christians who decide to kill in god's name that they are in fact going against the Bible, because this is simply not the case.
For more, see: Endorsement of Violence and Murder in the Old Testament.
“When he convened the Great Council of Nicaea, Constantine could not have imagined that the bishops would be meeting almost every year to rule on charges of criminal activity and heresy.”
"When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity During the Last Days of Rome"
Richard E. Rubenstein (1999)39
Matthew is the first book of the New Testament, the only other book to include the birth narrative is Luke, but his version is wildly different to the one given in Matthew.
King Herod hears of Jesus' impending birth. He consults the three wise men and finds out where and when he is to be born. They rebel against Herod and worship the baby and give gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. There are two basic gifts, Gold, the height of expense, and the two scents, cheaper gifts, with an emphasis on ritual and vanity. No matter what gift you give, as long as you try, it is the act of giving more than the actual gift that counts. This is a good moral (missing, though). It is bad however, that we should value one baby's life over any others - especially when that baby is actually an immortal being of infinite power, God incarnate, someone who perhaps needs no help at all. The wise men would have been wise to give the gold to a children's home. The gifts teach that you should give gifts to your superiors (God).
If you suspect your commander has insincere motives behind his wishes (i.e., Herod had immoral motives) it is correct, as this story shows, to question and rebel against those orders.
King Herod's infanticide of Matthew 2:16 sees the murder of all the children under 2yrs old in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. The mother of the child - the supposed hero of the story - allowed all the children to be killed rather than sacrifice her own by revealing him to Herod. Although typical of human nature, the more moral, braver and altruistic action would have been to stop the slaughter.
Matthew 20:1-6 tells a strange story, wherein heaven is compared to a landowner who hires workers at various times of the day. At the end of the day, he pays all the people he hired the same amount (one denarius - equivalent to a day's wages). But those that had been working all day complained that it was unfair to get paid the same as those who had been stood around all day before being hired. The landowner's answer is that it is his money, and, he can do what he likes with it. Now, theologically, this is making an argument about God's power: God rewards whoever it wants, and, if it is something God wants, then, there can be no argument about it. But the problem is that many consider the Bible to be a source of morals; and in terms of morals, this story is very poor. It teaches people not to bother until the last minute. There's always time to get saved. You can stand around all day, and do the minimum, and then voila you'll still get into heaven. It teaches that you can continue to live like a sinner, doing bad things, and it doesn't matter because you can repent later on, at the end of the day.
This section is taken from:
The violent and irrational anti-Semitism in history has had its roots in one common cause: the teachings of early and middle ages Christianity. Anti-semitism has always been rife within Christianity from the original Church Fathers of the first century. Many of the most influential Christian theologians, for example Augustine, St Aquinas and later, Martin Luther, all indulged themselves by writing anti-Jewish volumes. Aquinas wrote that "since the Jews are the slaves of the Church, she can dispose of their possessions". The Christian anti-Semites took their cue from Biblical verses such as Mark 15:15, Luke 23:3, John 19:4-6, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 that blames Jews as a whole for the death of Jesus, John 8:42-47 that says Jews are descended from the devil, and in Rom 10:3 that they are ignorant of God's will, and other verses are often cited by early Christians too although sometimes the logic of their exegesis confuses me.
No other religion has displayed such immovable hatred towards another religion as Christianity did towards the Jews. No holy war has ever lasted so long and been so bloody as the one the Christians waged against innocent Jews from the first century and through the Dark Ages. History provides us with only few occasions where Jews, or even Muslims or pagans, were as intolerant or morally corrupt as the West was under Christian rule. Thankfully modern Christianity, since it lost its power, is generally more humane. Christianity has slowly been forced to change its ways mostly due to pressure from increasingly powerful secular, poly-cultural governments and changing culture.”
Christianity in the first few centuries was hugely varied, much more so than today. There was no consensus on the nature of Christ, the purpose of being a Christian, how to attain salvation, and how to live. As it became increasingly obvious that the expected second coming wasn't imminent, competing church structures and competing sets of beliefs emerged, some of them newer than others. What was to become modern Christianity was not one of the earliest groups of Christians, nor the most sensible in its beliefs, but it came to dominate the others.
So it came to be that the literalist, nastier forms of Christianity survived the first few hundred years of Christian history, because it appealed to a wider number of people. It didn't require such things as circumcision or strict dietary laws. Literalist Christianity held power in Rome and it is no coincidence that it happened to preach a strict hierarchy, instructing slaves to serve their masters, instructing for taxes to be paid ("give to Caesar what is Caesar's" - Matthew 22:21) and instructing that people subject themselves to their governors (Romans 13:1). This form of Christianity, as we have seen, was oppressive, combatitive and organised, wiping out its nearest competitors, which was other forms of Christianity, with help from the institutions and Emperors of the Roman Empire. This conflict became legendary; pagan leaders, historians and competing religions all commented on the propensity for Christians to be found mostly engaged in battles with other Christians. Qur'an 5:14-15 asserts that enmity and hatred between Christians is a punishment from God for their "abandoning parts of God's message".42
If Matthew 7:18 is true and good trees cannot bear bad fruit, then it is sure that modern literalist, Pauline, Christianity, having achieved its ascendance over other forms of early Christianities through violence and oppression, then modern Christianity is the bad fruit of a bad tree, and it is from much the earlier forms of Christianity that the moralist ought to learn from.
For nearly all of its history, Christianity communities and institutions have demanded male-dominance, and treated women as inferior beings, subject to a wide range of rules and prohibitions that men have not had to bear. Based on canon law, legal prejudice became part of the fabric of Christianized countries, affecting areas such as inheritance and voting rights, and a legacy of cultural acceptance of female subjugation to men.
In particular, the injunctions found in the epistles of St Paul have had negative impact on the legal status of women43. Here are the worst injunctions, although there are many more: Colossians 3:18 states that wives must submit to husbands "as it is fit in the Lord" as does Titus 2:4-5. 1 Corinthians 11:3-9 states outright that women are inferior to men. 1 Timothy 2:11-14 and 1 Corinth. 14:34 has women be quiet and in full submission to men, and should never have authority over men, because Adam was formed before Eve. This is why women had long been barred from positions of power in Christian churches. What should women do instead? 1 Timothy 2:15 states that woman's role is childbirth, and Titus 2:5 adds that women should be obedient and "busy at home" (repeated in 1 Peter 3:1 and Ephesians 5:22-25).
Religious apologists such as Karen Armstrong44 and Moojan Momen45, who normally speak positively of religion in general, both sound warnings when it comes to the effect of religion on womankind. Armstrong says "Christianity does not emerge well from this story of Western women"46 and "in traditional Western Christianity women have been kept out of the male world of action and thought"47. The cause of these issues is that from inception the Bible, and Christian doctrine in general, following on from Judaism, has represented a purely male point of view of family, relations and power disparencies, resulting in an enduring doctrinal subjugation of women.48,49.
In the 21st century, some liberal branches of Christianity are now normalizing their stances, although many conservative wings oppose these moves. The greatest steps forwards have been when secular, democratic governments have removed the influence of Christianity from law, and asserted the validity of gender-neutral human rights, although powerful and well-funded Christian lobbies oppose this wherever they can.
For full text see: Christianity and Women: Biblical Misogyny and Male Dominance.
“In Europe, the 'Dark Ages' refers to the barriers to human intellectual and moral development thrown up by a Christianity which sought to control all aspects of morality, justice, education and power, violently ending progressive morality and tolerance wherever it had the power to do so51,52,53,54,55 especially from the 4th century onwards. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church stood as the most stable centre of European power and under its dominant influence science and scholarship was all but destroyed, replaced with Church dogma and doctrine, violently enforced56. Philosophical works were burned and lost, medicine and psychology set back hundreds of years52,57,58. In some areas of knowledge, over one thousand years of Human development was lost and education became controlled by the clergy and was often limited to them alone53,59. The entire Middle Ages was subject to Christian superstitions, torture, violence, the loss of education and knowledge and the denial of basic human freedoms, specifically as a result of Christian doctrine59.
During this time, the Arab world carried the torch of knowledge and surpassed Europe in its understanding of philosophy, mathematics, and the sciences in general60,61. Europe slowly emerged from the dark age amidst continued widespread horror at the abuses of the Church, and a gradual trickle of intellectuals and early scientists emerged from the 12th century. Although they were mostly imprisoned and tortured by Christian institutions, they eventually lit the spark of the Reformation in the 16th century, which broke the power of the Catholic Church (after large scale civil wars between competing Christians62,63), and allowed the seeds of the 18th century Enlightenment to be sown56, whereupon religious organisations' power was curbed, worldly knowledge was sought and basic Human rights were proclaimed and valued.”
Monotheism was one of the great institutions that upheld the slave trade; the Christian and Muslim markets held up the entire slave trade industry when without their support, it would have collapsed. Eventually, it was economic concerns that ended the trade.
“Christian institutions put large sums of money into the slave trade, and became the biggest slave-owners64, boosting a trade that would have otherwise collapsed. Behind this stood biblical arguments for slavery. Conservative Christians hung on to their slaves for the longest and the American South was only forced to relent when legislators went against Churches and public opinion65. The UK's Archbishop of Canterbury "apologized unreservedly" for the Church of England's role in the slave trade66. The Qur'an was even clearer in its institutionalization of slavery, and the conservative Muslim world debated bitterly for the keeping of slaves. Surprisingly for a nation of people with a shared mythology involving escaping from slave-masters, Jewish merchants also ran slave routes67 and even owned slaves directly for hundreds of years around the beginning of the first millennium68.
Non-monotheistic and non-mainstream religion had a much better track record on slavery. The liberal Buddhist emperor Ashoka abolished the slave trade in India in the 3rd century BCE69, and another Buddhist Emperor, Wang Mang (born 45BCE), done the same in China70. In the West, the earliest institutional anti-slavery thinkers were those found amongst the pagan Zeno's Stoics (342-270BCE).
The most successful religious campaigns against slavery were those under the rule of Voodoo priests and practitioners. Such leaders showed the world that anti-slavery was valid, inspiring hope and valiant anti-slavery efforts, all relying upon the slaves' own will to free themselves. Later on, the Quakers (a non-mainstream Christian sect in America) were effective in pushing for abolition there, eventually leading half of Christendom into opposition of slavery. But in the end it was economic interests that turned the world against slavery.”
God itself creates slaves of the entire Canaan people: Genesis 9:25-27: "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. ... May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japeth live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be his slave".
Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21: Servants are male property alongside houses, fields and animals: "Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbor's".
Exodus 21:26-27 - there are limits to the physical damage you can do to slaves: : "And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye's sake. And if he smite out his manservant's tooth, or his maidservant's tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake".
Exodus 22:3: "...he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft".
Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT: "However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way".
Leviticus 25:48-53: "After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself. And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubilee: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him".
Exodus 21:2-6 NLT: "If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.' If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever".
Exodus 21:7-11 NLT: "When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment".
Exodus 21:20-21 [NAB]: "When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property."
“Notice how they can get a male Hebrew slave to [become] a permanent slave by keeping his wife and children hostage until he says he wants to become a permanent slave. [...] A man can buy as many sex slaves as he wants as long as he feeds them, clothes them, and screws them! What does the Bible say about beating slaves? It says you can beat both male and female slaves with a rod so hard that as long as they don't die right away you are cleared of any wrong doing.”
www.evilbible.com/Slavery.htm (n.d., accessed 2010 Feb 25)
Deuteronomy 20:14: Women are spoils of war that can be owned: "But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself".
In Joshua 9:21-27 a caste of natives is condemned to slavery as manual workers for Israel for the rest of their lives. Did God intervene, and point out the immorality of slavery? No. Were they punished for indulging in this kind of abuse? No. In fact, they done so in order to avoid God's wrath.
Matthew 18:25: "But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made".
Ephesians 6:5 NLT: "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ".
1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT: "Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them".
Luke 12:47-48 NLT: "The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. "But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given".
Titus 2:9-10 NIV: "Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive".
Slavery is mentioned on many other occasions (i.e. Mark 14:66); there is one thing that all these verses have in common: In no place does the Bible take the chance to say "removing people's freedom is bad" or "abusing human rights is a route to hell" or not even "do not take slaves".
“Christianity has had a very troubled past when it comes to violence and extremism72,73. Problems with tolerance of other religions and beliefs began from its very inception within the Roman Empire74 and to the extent that Christianity "has insisted over the centuries that its way is the only true way [...] it has developed a militancy and a tendency toward fundamentalism"75. Christian Emperor Constantine had to deal with constant violent inter-denominational conflict, and time and time again had to rule in favour of one side or another, with bloodshed and violence resulting from each new division that appeared76. "Pagans openly taunted Christians about their internal battles"76. Future emperors Julian and Diocletian tried to restore paganism in order to return the old days of multi-faith tolerance77,78. Over its first few hundred years dozens of Christian sects were wiped out including the Ebionites, Arians and Marcionites. The victorious Cappadocian-Nicene sect of Pauline Christianity got to select which books to put into the Bible and which doctrine to declare orthodox. An industry of anti-heresy institutions spread terror throughout Europe, resulting in the Dark Ages79,80. The Waldenses and Cathars were attacked, and Jews and Muslims were subject to entire Crusades against them.
The violence stems from New Testament doctrine; Luke 14:23 says "Compel people to come in!". Matthew 10:34-37 and Luke 12:51-53 repeat the theme that Jesus says "I am not come to send peace, but a sword". 1 John 5:1-5,10 warns that having wrong beliefs makes you worthless. 2 John says that if you don't have the right beliefs about the relationship between Jesus-as-god and Jesus-as-man then you are godless (2 John 1:7-9), and Christians can't greet you politely nor welcome you in to church or home (2 John 1:10-11). Just to greet people with wrong beliefs, says 2 John, is to be in league with evil! This has no doubt helped encourage the intolerant and fundamentalist streams in Christian history. 2 John does contradict a few other verses in the Bible that say Christians should debate doctrine patiently and respectfully (1 Peter 3:15-16, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 3:2 and Colossians 4:6). The entire book of Jude is dedicated to preaching that those who have erroneous beliefs are ungodly and need to be "rescued". These verses and many like them in the Old Testament set the scene for aggression against those who do not believe the right things.
In modern times, the Christian institutions remains the West's strongest campaigners against LGBT equality, family planning, science education and gender equality; all of these battles have seen emboldened Christians commit acts of violence and atrocity against their perceived enemies72. Christian organisations have a particular problem with child abuse, possibly as a result of strict teachings on sexuality which see some of the priesthood attempt to live lives of celibacy81. Although fundamentalism is a strong and growing wing of modern Christianity82,83,84, the vast majority of Christians are thankfully now moderate or liberal and there is strong criticism of extremism from many Christian institutions.”
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“Homosexuals around the world have faced frequent condemnations85, political campaigns and vitriolic statements against them from Christian organisations, Christian communities and individual Christian preachers and activists.86,87,88. From the 1980s, a resurgent form of powerful, political, well-funded and fundamentalist Christianity has rose to gain influence in many Western countries89, especially the USA89. Similar groups have surfaced in the UK, although they've face tough battles against established Human Rights norms. They fight against societal acceptance of homosexuality87,90, decriminalisation of homosexuality91, equality laws that outlaw discrimination based on sexuality, against gay marriage, against homosexual parents adopting children92,93,94,95, against sex education that includes any positive commentary about homosexuality, and sometimes against the provision of social services to open homosexuals. The results of promoting discrimination includes violence, sometimes murder. In some countries, entire communities of devout Christians can rise up in mobs against perceived homosexuals and almost everywhere, gay clergy are expelled, shamed and ousted (even celibate ones in liberal churches96). All tolerance towards homosexuals in the West has been obtained despite the campaigns of Christian institutions. Some do now preach tolerance, but their voices are too little, too late, and they are generally shouted-down by the larger majority of Christian organisations that continue to shun anything sounding like gay tolerance or equality. The poor state of Christian institutional morality can be highlighted with a question: How many non-religious large organisations would struggle so much to fairly employ a homosexual? Shame on them all, for the needless pain they've caused.97”
“Child abuse and paedophilia has been a particular problem for Christian institutions. Christian clergy have been under much scrutiny over the last two decades after a long series of immoral scandals involving child abuse. The cases have been shocking, wild, numerous, public, and they keep coming. It seems that the Church's teachings on sexuality lead to a development of sexual dysfunction amongst its priests. Christian Churches, the biggest example being the Catholic Church, have fought to conceal paedophile priests and move them from place to place when allegations arise. They have tried to deal with paedophilia by sending priests on sick leave or to rehabilitation centres ran by other Christians, but, it appears that Christian hierarchies are the last places you should trust when it comes to dealing with sexual abnormality. The scale of the scandals has led to various Churches declaring themselves bankrupt as they attempt to pay some of the court costs and settlement fees demanded of them. No other industry - even those closely associated with children such as boarding schools - has a rate of abuse anywhere near the rate found amongst Christian clergy. Counting is difficult, but, around 3% of all priests appear to be prone to recurring sexual indecency with children. Catholic Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi represented the Vatican before the United Nations Human Rights Council, and stated that Jews and Protestants have worse rates of child abuse, but still admitted that in the last 50 years "somewhere between 1.5% and 5% of the catholic clergy has been involved in sexual abuse cases". Police have called for routine checks of all priests, and a growing distrust of Christian religious professionals is finally beginning to become apparent amongst the general public.”
Divorce statistics are sometimes a shock for Christians. The average divorce rate for born-again type Christians (27%) and others (24%) are both higher than that for atheism, which is 21%98. Empirically, atheists are more devoted to each other and commit to more stable relationship patterns than theists, yet the theists are the ones who say they stand for family values. Christian theologians have themselves expressed concern over their own rates of divorce and other marital problems such as wifebeating, which are mostly the same as the rates of non-Christians - and stricter Christians have worse rates99. There is a saying that those who shout loudest are the least capable. The Christian Churches shout loudly about love but... atheists are more capable. Seriously though, perhaps it is that atheists only get married if they're sure, while Christians feel pressurized so sometimes marry prematurely in relationships that aren't permanent. Christian culture can exert unnatural pressure on relationships.”
The skeptic Victor Stenger considers the claim that Christian morality is better than secular morality by examining the actual rates of immorality within Christendom. He finds in general that Christianity does no better, but, that the stricter forms of Christianity are often correlated with worse risks of abuse, neglect and violence.
“According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Christians make up almost 80 percent of the prison population. Atheists make up about 0.2 percent. It is to be admitted that these data are not published in a scientific journal, but I think it is safe to conclude that the godless do not fill prisons. Published studies do indicate that a child's risk of sexual abuse by a family member increases as the family's religious denomination becomes more conservative, that is, when the teachings of scriptures and other doctrines are taken more literally. Similarly, the probability of wife abuse increases with the rigidity of a church's teachings pertaining to gender roles and hierarchy. [...] Even observers from the Christian side have expressed dismay that the current dominance of evangelical Christianity in America has not translated into a strengthening of the nation's moral character or the characters of evangelical Christians themselves. In an article in Christianity Today, theologian Ronald Sider lamented [...]:"The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. "Gallup and Barna," laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, "hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general." Divorce is more common among "born-again" Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only little less than that of their nonevangelical peers."”
"God, the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist"
Prof. Victor J. Stenger (2007)100
Given the emphasis that religion's place on beliefs, and morality, he concludes that Christian beliefs on morality must be wrong, and that the worship of god does nothing for general or societal morality. Neil Kressel theorizes as to why Christian morality has proven to be worse than general morality, and comes to the conclusion that Christian teachings on sin and thought-crime are to blame:
“When the sermon claims that "everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery," it may in fact weaken the injunction against actual adultery. If one is already a sinner, why, one might plausibly ask, should one stop at mere lusting in the heart? And if anger alone condemns a man, clearly the average fellow has little chance of leading a good life. Giving up altogether on the quest then becomes a reasonable choice. When one is struck in the face and told to turn the other cheek, that person - unless a saint - quickly develops the sense that the scriptural morality is not meant to be taken seriously as a guide for the management of earthly conflict. The net consequences may be, unfortunately, to increase feelings of guilt and to decrease belief in the usefulness of moral precepts.”