• The Bible: An Exposé: The Bible and Morality


    One of the most common claims about the bible is that it is a moral guide and that within its pages can be found profound knowledge about how to solve most moral dilemmas. As the old saying goes, the bible is “life’s instruction manual.”

    The fact of the matter is that the bible was written during a period of time when such things as a lack of womens’ rights, laws allowing and regulating slavery, and brutal and unjust punishments were commonplace. Of course, you most likely won’t learn this while you’re sitting in the pews at your local church.

    In this piece I’m going to examine the morality and law codes in the bible in an attempt to shed some much needed light on the abundant acts of immorality in the bible. In doing so I hope to shatter the common illusion that the bible offers any kind of genuine moral guidance.

    In this first section I am going to lay out many examples of immorality throughout the bible. In the next section I’m going to explain the implications of these verses. Note: All bible verses are from the New International Version (NIV).

    Human Sacrifice

    Some of the most outrageous acts in the bible are human sacrifice, specifically child sacrifice. There are numerous occurrences of this so I will only point out a few examples.

    Genesis 22:1-18: Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

    Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me.”

    This is probably the most well-known example of (near) child sacrifice in the entire bible. Despite god halting the proceedings at the last minute what does this say about god? In today’s world Child Protective Services would be at god’s door in an instant!

    Exodus 13:2: “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.”

    While god may have been feeling somewhat merciful in Genesis he quickly changes his mind soon after. One might ask, “Why does god do these things? Isn’t god supposed love his creations? If so, why does he ask for the killing of innocent children?” That is a very good question, but unfortunately Christians have yet to give a satisfying answer.

    Judges 11:29-40: Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

    Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands. He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon. When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.” “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.” “You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin. From this comes the Israelite tradition that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

    Here is another instance of child sacrifice. This particular passage is interesting because even Jephthah’s daughter does not protest when she is to be sacrificed. This illustrates how common the idea of human sacrifice was during this period of history. It’s actually considered an honor!

    Deuteronomy 13:13-19: […] that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock. You are to gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt, and none of the condemned things are to be found in your hands. Then the Lord will turn from his fierce anger, will show you mercy, and will have compassion on you. He will increase your numbers, as he promised on oath to your ancestors – because you obey the Lord your God by keeping all his commands that I am giving you today and doing what is right in his eyes.

    This example of a burnt offering, or sacrifice, explains how nonbelievers are to be burned and sacrificed to god, along with all of their possessions.


    It may shock some believers but the institution of slavery was very much alive, and accepted, in Israel during the time the bible was written. There are numerous laws in the bible that are meant to regulate this unfortunate institution and a few are as follows.

    Exodus 21:20-21: Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

    As the above law explains, there were laws, as in all other slave societies, limiting the degree to which a slave owner can punish and abuse their slave, but the very institution of slavery is never questioned, even by Jesus. Christians have recognized this throughout the centuries, hence the following passage from 1856 by a Christian in a book titled Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery:

    I affirm then, first, (and no man denies,) that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command: and second, I affirm, he has introduced no new moral principle which can work its destruction, under the gospel dispensation; and that the principle relied on for this purpose, is a fundamental principle of the Mosaic law, under which slavery was instituted by Jehovah himself […] [1]

    Here are a few more laws about slavery:

    Leviticus 25:44-46: Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

    Ephesians 6:5: Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.

    There are many more verses such as these so I will move on to another subject. I will, however, point you to an excellent book called Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship by Hector Avalos that refutes the common argument that Christianity was ultimately responsible for the abolition of slavery.

    Maltreatment of Women

    Yes, ladies, the bible is not a female-friendly book. While it is true that Jesus may have been more accepting of women, women were treated as property in biblical times and were considered second-class citizens and this is clear throughout the entire bible. The laws of Moses were entirely patriarchal; women could not own property; women themselves were even viewed as a form of property. Exodus 20:17 makes this clear when it says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, his ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.

    To quote Thom Stark (who is a Christian) on the above passage,

    For instance, the Decalogue is addressed entirely to males. It doesn’t say, “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife or husband.” It says, “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife,” and it lists the wife in the middle of a list which includes other property, such as his house, mule, and slaves. [2]

    Here are several of the verses dealing with women and their place in society:

    Corinthians 14:34: [W]omen should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.

    1 Timothy 2:11-12: A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

    1 Peter 3:5-6: They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.

    1 Corinthians 11:8-9: For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

    Ephesians 5:22-24: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

    Colossians 3:18: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

    Genesis 3:16: To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

    Immoral Acts By God

    When believers think of their god they usually refer to the all embracing love “he” has for his creations. What you usually don’t hear from believers is the fact that god as presented in the bible is “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” [3] A quick look through the Old Testament will quickly confirm Richard Dawkins’ most famous quotation from his book The God Delusion.

    Other than demanding human sacrifice as I discussed earlier, god also orders the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children. Probably the most famous example of this is the mythical flood in Genesis.

    Genesis 6:5-7: The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

    Another example is when god orders the slaughter of the Canaanites (among other innocent peoples) in Deuteronomy.

    Deuteronomy 7:1-2: When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations – the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you — and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.

    Luckily, these genocides do not appear to be historical accounts. Thom Stark notes,

    The conquest narrative is largely fictional, as the archaeological record makes absolutely clear (more on that later). There is evidence that some battles of the kind depicted in the text did take place, like those at Hazor and Tell Beit-Mirsim (the biblical Kirjath-sepher), though it is not clear from the record that these sites were actually destroyed by Israelites. But the evidence also shows that the battlesdepicted at Jericho, Ai, and numerous other sites did not take place, as those cities were not inhabited at the time of the alleged conquest of Canaan. In fact, many of the cities identified as battle sites in Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua didn’t even exist until centuries after Israel emerged in Canaan. The archaeological record further indicates that the Israelites were not migrants from outside of Canaan, but emerged from within Canaan. This is clear from the material culture, which is Canaanite in character, showing no influence from Egyptian material culture, as would be expected if Israel had indeed been living in Egypt for four hundred years. [4]

    However, even though most of these battles did not actually take place the fact that in the bible god commands the slaughter of innocent men, women, children, and even babies, is indefensible and inhumane. It is, in a word, genocide.

    In Numbers god orders the murder of another group of innocent people, the Midianites. Moses and his army carry out god’s order.

    Numbers 31:1-18: The Lord said to Moses, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.” So Moses said to the people, “Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites so that they may carry out the Lord’s vengeance on them. Send into battle a thousand men from each of the tribes of Israel.” So twelve thousand men armed for battle, a thousand from each tribe, were supplied from the clans of Israel. Moses sent them into battle, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, who took with him articles from the sanctuary and the trumpets for signaling. They fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every man. Among their victims were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba – the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder. They burned all the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps. They took all the plunder and spoils, including the people and animals, and brought the captives, spoils and plunder to Moses and Eleazar the priest and the Israelite assembly at their camp on the plains of Moab, by the Jordan across from Jericho. Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. Moses was angry with the officers of the army – the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds – who returned from the battle. “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

    I should note that this last verse, ”but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man” refers to the women taken captive from the slaughtered communities and how the men should keep them alive in order to rape them.

    Many Christians speak about how they condemn abortion but they likely are unaware of the following verse that describes god’s command to murder unborn babies in the book of Hosea.

    Hosea 13:16: The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.

    Here is another slaughter ordered by god:

    1 Samuel 15:2-3; 7-8: This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” […] Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.

    Immoral Acts By Jesus

    While Jesus is certainly a huge improvement over the god of the Old Testament Jesus isn’t that much better. Jesus is often said to be a great teacher and imparted great moral wisdom such as the Sermon on the Mount, with the golden rule and the admonishment to “love thy neighbor.” The fact, however, is that the golden rule (Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”) is a nugget of wisdom that was taught centuries before Jesus. Here are a few examples:

    “Do not impose on others what you do not desire others to impose upon you.” (Confucius, The Analects. Roughly 500 BCE.)

    Hindu sacred literature: “Let no man do to another that which would be repugnant to himself.” (Mahabharata, bk. 5, ch. 49, v. 57)

    Buddhist sacred literature: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” (Udanavargu, 5:18, Tibetan Dhammapada, 1983)

    Isocrates, the Greek orator: “What things make you angry when you suffer them at the hands of others, do not you do to other people.” [5]

    The point that I’m trying to make is that many Christians cite this verse and claim this principle is what makes Christianity “better” than other religions because of this great moral precept. However, the truth is that this proverb was taught centuries before Jesus was even (supposedly) born and there is nothing special or noteworthy about it.

    The second common proverb is to “love thy neighbor” (Mark 12:28-31: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”).

    Here is one of Jesus’ better moral teachings, though it’s not much different than the above proverb, and other religions contain similar statements as explained above. However, other verses impart divisiveness such as the following:

    Matthew 10:34-36: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”

    Luke 14:26-27: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

    The following verse has Jesus vowing “to come back to exact revenge upon those that do not follow him.” [6]

    Matthew 25:31-46: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    As I mentioned above, even Jesus “introduced no new moral principle” that would abolish or condemn the institution of slavery, making Jesus just as immoral as any slave master throughout history.

    Not only does Jesus seem to advocate violence in the passage in Matthew 10:34 (when he references a sword) but he also acts violently in the gospels themselves. In John 2:14-17 Jesus fashions a whip and begins to attack people.

    The verse is as follows:

    John 2:14-17: In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

    Despite Jesus’ other pacifist (and more widely known) verse to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39: But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.), Jesus is clearly engaging in an act of outright violence here and “John portrays the disciples as connecting Jesus’ use of violence to a biblical text (Ps. 69:9).” [7]

    Unjust/Immoral Punishments and Laws

    Not only is slavery allowed and regulated in the bible but there are numerous unjust laws and punishments that would seem to be insane in this day and age. Some examples:

    Numbers 15:32-36: While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses.

    Many Christian apologists argue that this punishment was in fact a just one. They argue that this man had broken one of god’s commandments and was rightfully punished. They often cite Exodus 20:8-10, which says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.”

    This so-called defense of this barbarous act ignores the actual reason why atheists and other non-believers find this to be immoral. The moral outrage is not that the man broke one of god’s rules but because of the very harsh and unnecessary punishment that was given to the man. This is equal to putting a child to death because they stole a candy bar from a convenience store! It’s literally insane.

    Deuteronomy 21:18-21: If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

    This is a clear law to take stubborn children out and kill them. Of course, several apologists argue that this law was allegedly never used in practice, but I’ve yet to see any proof that it wasn’t. The problem and complaint of atheists is not that it was or wasn’t used, but the very fact that the bible contains such a law to begin with when this book is supposed to be a book to model your morals after.

    Christians tout the bible as having a superior moral code but let us look at the Code of Hammurabi, a set of Babylonian law codes which predate the bible, and how this society dealt with stubborn children:

    If a man wish to put his son out of his house, and declare before the judge: “I want to put my son out,” then the judge shall examine into his reasons. If the son be guilty of no great fault, for which he can be rightfully put out, the father shall not put him out.

    If he be guilty of a grave fault, which should rightfully deprive him of the filial relationship, the father shall forgive him the first time; but if he be guilty of a grave fault a second time the father may deprive his son of all filial relation. (168-169) [8]

    It’s a no-brainer. The Code of Hammurabi is clearly the more just and moral solution to a rebellious teenager. Regardless if the biblical law was ever used or not it should be clear which civilization was the most moral, since The Code of Hammurabi doesn’t declare death on the first offense like the bible. In fact, it doesn’t demand any physical punishment at all. It only says that a father has a right to disown his son, but only after a second offense. Anyone who cannot understand this has some severe issues with their moral compass.

    Exodus 21:17: Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.

    I think this one is self explanatory.

    Deuteronomy 22:28-29: If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives. [9]

    I’ve discussed the lowly status of women in Israelite society above, but this law helps to hammer home the point.

    2 Chronicles 13:7-10: They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets.

    When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.

    Here, god killed Uzzah for nothing more than touching the Ark of the Covenant in order to steady it so as to keep it from falling and breaking.

    Numbers 25:1-9: While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.

    The Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the Lord’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel.”

    So Moses said to Israel’s judges, “Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.”

    Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.

    This passage could be read two different ways. The people were ordered to be killed by god because either they engaged in sexual relations with women who worshiped another god (an inter-faith relationship), or because they began to attend Pagan worship services with their lovers. Regardless, death is a brutal, unjust, and unnecessary punishment.

    The Bible As Christians Know It

    As I’ve demonstrated, the bible is in no way a moral guide due to its numerous brutal and unjust laws and punishments. However, many Christians sitting in their pews rarely – if ever – see or understand the historical or social context in which the bible was written and therefore only know about the gentle, loving, and moral passages. Some examples:

    1 Corinthians 13:4-7: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    1 Corinthians 13:11: When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

    John 8:32: Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

    Proverbs 15:1: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

    Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [10]

    These are some of the most well-known verses in the bible and are often cited. In some cases they do offer some noble wisdom, such as Proverbs 15:1 and 1 Corinthians 13:11. However, now that I’ve introduced the reader to both sides of the bible, the brutal and unjust, and the moral and gentle, the next question is which verses do we apply in daily life and which ones do we avoid?

    The Moral Dilemma

    Now that I’ve layed out the contents of the bible and what it has to say regarding morality hopefully readers can spot the problem. How do Christians choose between the ancient and brutal passages that someone wouldn’t wish upon their worst enemy, and the verses that impart moral wisdom?

    Some Christians claim that Jesus is the lens through which the bible should be read and we should follow the popular acronym: WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?).

    Once again, I hope the reader can see the tremendous flaw with this reasoning. As we saw above, using Jesus as a guide to morality is just as problematic as trying to use the bible as a whole: which verses do we ignore and which ones do we use in daily life?

    We certainly cannot always resort to violence as Jesus did in John, Chapter 2. We certainly shouldn’t follow Jesus’ command to hate your parents (unless they truly deserve it of course). [11] We should not kill people for being in relationships with people of other religions, or no religion. We should not kill people for not belonging to a particular religion. Religious freedom is one of the most basic rights and is one of the foundations of a civilized and fair society. We shouldn’t place in the law books a rule that says parents are to murder their rebellious teenager.

    An Objection Answered

    Before I conclude this post I’d like to address a common Christian apologetics absurdity in response to the above arguments. It’s often argued that no form of morality is possible under naturalism, therefore no atheist can offer moral criticisms against anything in the bible because there is allegedly no criteria to determine right or wrong. My head spins when I see this argument put forward. This is complete nonsense. There have been numerous systems of morality that are based upon materialism, such as the social contract as one example.


    The bible is a hopeless guide for morality. There is no biblically based criteria for deciding which verses to obey and which verses to avoid. Even god cannot be viewed as a model to follow, nor Jesus, nor Moses, as each of these characters (and countless others) display immoral and grotesque behavior by today’s moral standards. [12]

    1. Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery, by Thornton Stringfellow, J.W. Randolph, 1856; 37

    2. Is God a Moral Compromiser? A Critical Review of Paul Copan’s “Is God a Moral Monster?, by Thom Stark, Self-Published, 2011; 96

    3. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, Houghton Mifflin, 2006; 31

    4. Is God a Moral Compromiser?; 209

    5. The Golden Rule and Christian Apologetics, by Edward T. Babinski – Originally posted 2-20-12

    6. Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, Prometheus Books, 2005; 78

    7. Ibid.; 180

    8. Is God a Moral Compromiser?; 40

    9. According to a footnote in the bible fifty shekels is about 1 1/4 pounds or about 575 grams.

    10. While this verse is commonly understood to be referring to universal equality, what it actually appears to say is that everyone has an equal chance to partake in Christ’s salvation. (Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship, by Hector Avalos, Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2011; 108-112)

    11. Christian apologists have taken a sly, but ultimately dishonest, position about the meaning of this verse. In order to reduce the obvious moral issues with Jesus telling his followers to hate their parents apologists have argued that the word hate doesn’t actually mean hate when you take the verse “in context,” but that it means when compared to a person’s love for Christ everything else is hated.

    The fact of the matter is that when you look at the original Greek word used in this verse, miseo, it means “hate,” not “Love Y more than X.” Second, allow me to quote Hector Avalos:

    Luke 16:13 is particularly important as it shows the usage of the word by presumably the same author of Luke 14:26. Luke 16:13 says: “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” The author clearly indicates here that “hate” = “absence of love.” One cannot have both love and hate for the same person. You either love one or the other. Thus, we can develop a linguistic and semantic rationale for our interpretation of miseo in Luke 14:26:

    1. Since miseo is interpreted literally as the opposite of love (= “hate”) everywhere in the Bible,

    2. and since there is no other indication that miseo is not literal in Luke

    3. then miseo probably means the opposite of love in Luke 14:26. (Fighting Words; 216-220)

    12. A book I recommend, while basic, is a very good guide to this subject matter. It is titled Why The Bible Cannot Be The Word Of God., by Andre Jacobs.

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    Article by: Arizona Atheist