April 20, 2007

Christian Bible is Poor Basis of Morality

English: War Correspondents' Memorial in the s...
War Correspondents' Memorial in the shape of an open Christian Bible at Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many Christians claim that their bible is the source of morality and that it is something of a guide for Christians to determine how to live their lives. If we accept that they believe this to be the case, the implications are terrifying. Granted, there are some good things in the Christian bible, and even if they can be traced back to moral systems that pre-date Christianity, this does not necessarily diminish their value. However, there are also many terrible things in the Christian bible, making me extremely uncomfortable with the suggestion that this book should guide anyone's behavior. Let's look at an example.

The following comes from Exodus 34: 13-17 and provides a decent example of why the Christian bible cannot seriously be regarded as any sort of guide to moral behavior:

...ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves. For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make they sons go a whoring after their gods. Thou shall make thee no molten gods.
Even if you can ignore the obsession with "whoring" evident here, what do you think about the merits of the jealous god described here? I see little worthy of admiration and even less worthy of emulation here.

The Christian confronting this passage has a few widely used options, none of which strikes me as satisfactory. First, the Christian may claim that this passage has nothing to do with morality and should never be regarded as such. Okay, but what are we to make of the "ye shall" part that certainly sounds like an order? Who are we to ignore what this god tells us to do? Second, the Christian may say that I am simply misinterpreting this passage and that understanding the bible requires some form of guided bible study. Again, who am I to say that the meaning conveyed by these words is not the meaning intended by god? Can I be that arrogant? Is it really wiser to conclude that I need trained clergy to decipher this text for me because this god can't communicate well? Third, the Christian may say that this is not a significant passage and that many others are far more important. Says who? It seems that I should read these words attributed to this god in order to understand what this god wants of me rather than to selective pick and choose what I will follow and what I will reject. Again, how could I be so arrogant as to assume I have the right to follow what I like and disregard the rest?

A far more reasonable conclusion is to realize that this book had little to do with morality when it was written and even less so now. Then again, I don't suppose it is fair to accuse someone who claims to have a personal relationship with a dead person (who possibly never existed) of being reasonable. As nice as it might be to have an instruction manual for life, this isn't it.