Evil newborns?

Can a newborn baby ever be evil and deserving of death? It seems that in their quest to justify the unjustifiable some theists indeed think so.

a God that can cause a worldwide flood that kills off a world full of evil people and saves only a few that are good

Mung

I think we can safely assume that there were newborns in the world just prior to the floode. However I’m skeptical that any baby can be classified as “evil people”.

What do believers in the flood think? Did those babies deserve to drown because they were evil? Did those evil babies go to heaven? Or were they a price worth paying to “reset” the earth to only allow good people to survive?

195 thoughts on “Evil newborns?

  1. Neil Rickert: Consciousness is part of our interactive engagement with the world.

    Of course it is…Otherwise it wouldn’t make sense to be conscious at all, would it?

  2. Christians,

    If you can’t defend Deuteronomy 22, perhaps you’d fare better with another verse that Acartia quoted:

    When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.

    Exodus 21:7

    So God screws women by allowing them to be sold into slavery, he screws them by not requiring them to be freed after six years, they get screwed by the father who sold them into slavery, and they get screwed (probably literally) by the man who bought them.

    Your God clearly doesn’t love women, but he sure does love seeing them get screwed.

  3. Hi keiths,

    Sorry for having responded to your questions on the wrong post. For readers who are interested, my response to keiths’s questions regarding Deuteronomy 22 can be found here:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/five-proofs/comment-page-5/#comment-195458

    Regarding the verse quoted by Acartia, the same considerations apply. God does not approve of slavery, and the command quoted does not reflect his positive will, but his permissive will, with regard to a hardhearted people who had no intention of doing away with slavery altogether, and whose economic system was built (in part) on the institution of slavery. (And whereas in the nineteenth century A.D., there were states which functioned perfectly well without slavery, offering a viable alternative, that wasn’t the case in the first or second millennium B.C.) The laws in Exodus pertaining to slavery mitigate some of its evils, making the laws of the Israelites an improvement on what preceded them. Here’s what the Pulpit Commentary says on Exodus 21:7:

    Verse 7. – If a man sell his daughter to be a maid-servant. Among ancient nations the father’s rights over his children were generally regarded as including the right to sell them for slaves. In civilised nations the right was seldom exercised; but what restrained men was rather a sentiment of pride than any doubt of such sales being proper. Many barbarous nations, like the Thracians (Herod. 5:6), made a regular practice of selling their daughters. Even at Athens there was a time when sales of children had been common (Plut. Vit. Solon. § 13). Existing custom, it is clear, sanctioned such sales among the Hebrews, and what the law now did was to step in and mitigate the evil consequences. (Compare the comment on verse 2.) These were greatest in the case of females. Usually they were bought to be made the concubines, or secondary wives of their masters. If this intention were carried out, then they were to be entitled to their status and maintenance as wives during their lifetime, even though their husband took another (legitimate) wife (ver. 10). If the retention was not carried out, either the man was to marry her to one of his sons (ver. 9), or he was to sell his rights over her altogether with his obligations to another Hebrew; or he was to send her back at once intact to her father’ s house, without making any claim on him to refund the purchase-money. These provisos may not have furnished a remedy against all the wrongs of a weak, and, no doubt, an oppressed class; but they were important mitigations of the existing usages, and protected the slave-concubine to a considerable extent.

    With regard to Acartia’s question about the death penalty for homosexuals in the OT, let’s keep in mind that we aren’t talking about sex between two consenting adults here. That’s a 21st-century norm, but it certainly wasn’t the norm in ancient Greece, Rome or China. The norm, back then, was older men preying on younger boys – and frequently, giving them venereal diseases in the process, at a time when there were no antibiotics. Rape and VD: that’s a double injury. No wonder Israel legislated harshly against it. Today’s world is altogether different: practically everyone acknowledges the wrongfulness of adults having sex with underage males. Sex between consenting adults is medically risky, but the diseases it often gives rise to are at least treatable. Consequently in our day and age, there is no good reason for the State to legislate against homosexual acts, as they pose no clear and present danger to the common good.

  4. Vincent,

    In the other thread, you wrote:

    So if you were to ask me, “Did God issue the laws in Deuteronomy 22?”, I would have to answer, “No.”

    And:

    Regarding your other question concerning the laws on bestiality in Leviticus 20:15-16, you ask: “Why kill the innocent animals?” I think the same kind of reply could be made here. The commands were not issued by God.

    Yet the Bible itself states that those commands came from God.

    In the past, you’ve seemed reluctant to acknowledge that the Bible contains falsehoods. Are you acknowledging that now? Do you now believe that the Bible is wrong when it attributes those unsavory commands to God?

  5. vjtorley:

    With regard to Acartia’s question about the death penalty for homosexuals in the OT, let’s keep in mind that we aren’t talking about sex between two consenting adults here. That’s a 21st-century norm, but it certainly wasn’t the norm in ancient Greece, Rome or China. The norm, back then, was older men preying on younger boys – and frequently, giving them venereal diseases in the process, at a time when there were no antibiotics. Rape and VD: that’s a double injury. No wonder Israel legislated harshly against it.

    That makes no sense. If the law wasn’t about “sex between two consenting adults”, then it’s even more appallingly unjust:

    13 “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

    Leviticus 20:13, NIV

    If you are right, and the law isn’t about sex between consenting adults, then the Bible is commanding “Kill the innocent victim!”

    Read it again:

    …both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

    It’s obvious that this law was written by humans who were projecting their own barbaric morality onto God. You’re smart enough to see that clearly, Vincent.

    The Bible is a goofy human book that gets some very important things wrong. Badly wrong. It ain’t the inspired word of a loving and just God.

  6. Hi keiths,

    Yet the Bible itself states that those commands came from God.

    The Bible says that Deuteronomy is a speech which Moses gave to the people of Israel. It doesn’t say that God told Moses to give that speech, so that means the passages I discussed, from Deuteronomy 22 and 24, were not dictated by God.

    With regard to Leviticus 20, the situation is different. The opening of the chapter reads: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: …”’ The same phrase is used repeatedly throughout the book. I suppose I would have to say it’s not literally true. The author of Leviticus was piously attributing the entire code of law to God. I think that while there are commands which reflect God’s positive will, in some cases the commands merely reflect His permissive will: in reality, they are human laws, made for a hardhearted people at a particular time in history, and reluctantly permitted by God, for those people in that situation.

    With regard to the laws against homosexuality, you write:

    It’s obvious that this law was written by humans who were projecting their own barbaric morality onto God.

    Except that the problem here is that in the Ancient Middle East, homosexuality was not condemned. Wherever the Israelites got their laws on homosexuality from, it wasn’t from their cultural milieu, which was quite permissive.

    I’ve been digging around on the Net, and this is what I’ve come up with, from a variety of sources of different perspectives:

    Religious “No!” to Proposition 8 by Elliot Fein (The Jewish Journal, November 8, 2008):

    Child sacrifices, animal cruelty, and inhumane slavery were inherent features of the pagan cult. In biblical times, it’s easy to understand how our Israelite ancestors strived to disassociate themselves from nations that performed horrific cultic practices. It is easy, in establishing an ethical monotheistic covenant, to understand how our biblical ancestors could over-state their condemnation of particular pagan behaviors.

    Rabbi Bradley Artson, a friend and mentor, is Dean of the Rabbinic School at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. When Bradley Artson was a student studying to become a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary, he did an interesting academic project.

    He looked up every reference he could find to homosexual activity mentioned in ancient Greek and Latin writers. Every citation he found described an encounter between males where one party, the master, physically abused another, the slave. Rabbi Artson could not find a single example where one partner was not subservient to the other.

    Judaism and Homosexuality: A Brief History by Elon Gilad (Haaretz, June 2, 2016):

    Deuteronomy does not ban homosexuality, only sacred prostitution. So the question is, when was sex among men banned? 

    We cannot know with accuracy. The ban only appears in two verses, both in the same section of Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13). Most scholars believe these verses were written either during the Babylonian Exile or during the early Second Temple period, so sometime during the 6th to the 4th century BCE (2600 to 2400 years ago), but when exactly in this period, we do not know. 

    Nor can we know what led to this prohibition. Some speculate that it was an expansion on the ban on sacred prostitution. Others think it was an effort to limit contact between Jews and gentiles, but the fact is no-one knows.

    Homosexuality in Orthodox Judaism by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Ansel:

    The Torah clearly states its views about the act of homosexuality. The act of homosexuality, i.e. two men having sexual relations, is prohibited (SOURCE #1). The act is twice called a Toaiva-an abomination and it is such a severe sin, that it merits the death penalty in a Jewish court system (SOURCE #2)….

    The very context of the prohibition (SOURCE #1) shows the Torah view. It is couched between the prohibitions of child sacrifice (to an idol) and bestiality (sexual relations with an animal)…

    The commentaries on the Talmud say that by abandoning heterosexual sexual relations, the person is straying from one of his prime goals in life — to procreate and populate the earth (Genesis 1:28). We will amplify this theme below, but this explanation does not seem to be the abhorrence that the word TOAIVA implies in the simple meaning. Thus, the classic explanation of why homosexuality is prohibited in the Torah is because of straying, i.e. failure to populate the earth...

    …There are numerous other references to deeds that are described as Toaiva-abomination. By examining each one, we may be able to ascertain what they all have in common…

    What do all these acts have in common? They are pagan customs of the societies whose values are antithetical to Judaism. God emphatically warns the Jewish people not to learn these customs or follow these values. Based on this, homosexuality, also called Toaiva-abomination, can be understood to be a societal value and sin that is alien to Judaism and Jewish values, and should not be learned from the societies where the Jews have lived or have conquered.

    Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism (and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality by Dennis Prager:

    …In the ancient Near Fast and elsewhere, virgins were deflowered by priests prior to engaging in relations with their husbands, and sacred or ritual prostitution was almost universal. Psychiatrist and sexual historian Norman Sussman describes the situation thus: “Male and female prostitutes, serving temporarily or permanently and performing heterosexual, homosexual oral-genital, bestial, and other forms of sexual activities, dispense their favors in behalf of the temple.” Throughout the ancient Near East, from very early times, anal intercourse formed a part of goddess worship.

    To appreciate the extent of the revolution wrought by Judaism’s prohibiting homosexuality and demanding that all sexual interaction be male-female, it is first necessary to appreciate just how universally accepted, valued, and practiced homosexuality has been throughout the world.

    The one continuous exception was Jewish civilization — and a thousand years later, Christian civilization. Other than the Jews, “none of the archaic civilizations prohibited homosexuality per se,” Dr. David E. Greenberg notes. It was Judaism alone that about 3,000 years ago declared homosexuality wrong.

    And it said so in the most powerful and unambiguous language it could: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is an abomination.” “And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed an abomination.”…

    If one can speak of Judaism’s essence, it is contained in the Torah statement, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse, and you shall choose life.” Judaism affirms whatever enhances life, and it opposes or separates whatever represents death… This is probably why the Torah juxtaposes child sacrifice with male homosexuality. Though they are not morally analogous, both represent death: one deprives children of life, the other prevents their having life. This parallelism is present in the Talmud: “He who does not engage in propagation of the race is as though he had shed blood.”…

    Again, Judaism’s sexual ideals, especially its opposition to homosexuality, rendered Jews different from the earliest times to the present. As early as the second century B.C., Jewish writers were noting the vast differences between Jewish sexual and family life and that of their non-Jewish neighbors. In the Syballine (sic) Oracles, written by an Egyptian Jew probably between 163 and 45 B.C., the author compared Jews to the other nations: The Jews “are mindful of holy wedlock, and they do not engage in impious intercourse with male children, as do Phoenicians, Egyptians, and Romans, specious Greece and many nations of others, Persians and Galatians and all Asia.” And in our times. sex historian Amo Karlen wrote that according to the sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, “Homosexuality was phenomenally rare among Orthodox Jews.”…

    In all my research on this subject, nothing moved me more than the Talmudic law that Jews were forbidden to sell slaves or sheep to non-Jews, lest the non-Jews engage in homosexuality and bestiality.

    It appears that homosexual acts were generally of an abusive nature, between a superior and an inferior, or an older man and a younger boy. Dennis Prager’s article, in particular, marshals impressive evidence of the prevalence of pederasty in non-Jewish cultures, in antiquity, and of how liberating the influence of Judaism proved to be.

    With regard to Leviticus 20:13, which commands that both men involved should be put to death, you write:

    If you are right, and the law isn’t about sex between consenting adults, then the Bible is commanding “Kill the innocent victim!”

    Why Are Torah Punishments So Harsh? by Yehuda Shurpin (at chabad.org):

    Before answering your question, it’s worthwhile to note just how difficult it actually is to impose the death penalty in Jewish law.

    First of all, circumstantial evidence won’t cut it. You need two impeccable witnesses who had observed the person transgressing an act punishable by death. Next, these two witnesses had to have warned the person of the capital punishment he could receive for doing the prohibited act, even if he already knew. Finally, the person must have committed the transgression immediately after the warning. Any hesitation and the death penalty is off. The same applies to other forms of punishment.

    See also here: Capital and corporal punishment in Judaism – Stringencies of evidence in capital cases (Wikipedia). The article adds:

    Capital punishment in rabbinic law, or indeed any other punishment, must not be inflicted, except by the verdict of a regularly constituted court (Lesser Sanh.) of three-and-twenty qualified members (Sanh. i. 1; Sifre, Num. 160), and except on the most trustworthy and convincing testimony of at least two qualified eyewitnesses to the crime (Deut. xvii. 6, xix. 15; Soṭah vi. 3; Sifre, Num. 161; ib. Deut. 150, 188; Sanh. 30a) who must also depose that the culprit had been forewarned as to the criminality and the consequences of his project (Sanh. v. 1, 40b et seq.; see Hatraah). The culprit must be a person of legal age and of sound mind, and the crime must be proved to have been committed of the culprit’s free will and without the aid of others (see Abetment); and if any one wilfully kills him before conviction, a charge of murder will lie against such perpetrator (Tosef., B. Ḳ. ix. 15; Sifre, Num. 161; compare ‘Ar. i. 3, 6b).

    I think we may fairly conclude that boys would not have been put to death under this law, as they would not have been of legal age and would not have been acting of their own free will.

    I’m no expert on Jewish law, but I’m prepared to say, on the evidence that Prager and some of the other authors cited put forward, that Jewish sexual ethics has had an overwhelmingly positive effect on the world.

  7. vjtorley:

    The Bible says that Deuteronomy is a speech which Moses gave to the people of Israel. It doesn’t say that God told Moses to give that speech, so that means the passages I discussed, from Deuteronomy 22 and 24, were not dictated by God.

    That’s incorrect, unless Moses was lying. In the preface to his long speech, he explicitly indicates that the commands are from God:

    26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— 27 the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.

    Deuteronomy 11:26-28, NIV [emphasis added]

    Do you think that Moses was lying?

  8. vjtorley:

    With regard to Leviticus 20, the situation is different. The opening of the chapter reads: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: …”’ The same phrase is used repeatedly throughout the book. I suppose I would have to say it’s not literally true.

    In other words, it’s false. The Lord didn’t say that to Moses, according to you.

    You have now acknowledged that the Bible contains at least one falsehood. That’s an important step!

    There are many more, but the first one is the hardest one to acknowledge. (I speak from experience.) Keep going.

  9. Vincent,

    With regard to Leviticus 20, the situation is different. The opening of the chapter reads: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: …”’ The same phrase is used repeatedly throughout the book. I suppose I would have to say it’s not literally true. The author of Leviticus was piously attributing the entire code of law to God. I think that while there are commands which reflect God’s positive will, in some cases the commands merely reflect His permissive will: in reality, they are human laws, made for a hardhearted people at a particular time in history, and reluctantly permitted by God, for those people in that situation.

    You are now admitting that Bible wrongly attributes those commands to God, which is progress. But you’re still trying to rationalize God’s behavior.

    If he only “reluctantly permitted” the barbarous execution of homosexuals, why did he allow it to be presented as a categorical, unhesitant command of his in the Bible? Why is that falsehood so important to him?

    And even if you were somehow able to rationalize his “reluctant permission” for the human laws of a “hardhearted” people, what about modern folks? Was God an incompetent klutz who didn’t realize that present-day people would still be looking to the Bible for guidance regarding his will?

    A competent, honest God would have said: “Don’t kill consenting homosexuals. Homosexuality isn’t an “abomination”, and it isn’t a crime.” If the Israelites were too “hardhearted” to obey, so what? They disobeyed a lot of God’s commandments, but that didn’t stop God from issuing them.

    Your “reluctant permission” rationalization doesn’t work.

    You really have to decide what’s more important to you: rationalizing your prior beliefs, or pursuing the truth. To an objective observer, it’s obvious that the Bible is not the inspired word of a loving, just, honest God. The Old Testament laws are just one reason to acknowledge this. There are many more.

    The truth is right in front of you, Vincent, but you have to open your mind to the evidence, and evaluate it as impartially as you can, if you want to get there.

  10. Hi keiths,

    Do you think that Moses was lying?

    No, for the simple reason that he probably didn’t give the speech in the first place. The Bible is basically putting words in his mouth which we don’t know he uttered.

    So what did happen during the Exodus? There were several manifestations of God, and various public miracles as well, which the Israelites witnessed. God, in his manifestations, communicated the fact that certain barbaric practices which were customary among neighboring peoples were to end. He also issued a few basic commandments describing how people were to live. Other commandments relating to the worship of God and to public morality were subsequently composed by the Israelite religious leaders and retrospectively ascribed to Moses, hundreds of years later. While they represented a genuine advance in religion and morality for their time, they were in many ways imperfect. Nevertheless, taken together, the “Mosaic commands” (or the Torah) brought about a cultural revolution which defined the Jewish people, and which transformed the world, overwhelmingly for the better, because despite their imperfections, they contained nuggets of a higher, transcendent law. God permitted His people to follow these commands, knowing that the time would eventually come when He would send His Son to issue the people with a new and purer version of the law, when they were ready to receive it. Not surprisingly, some of the Jews rejected what they saw as a religious innovation; others came to accept it. Finally, the Jewish rabbis themselves, realizing that their commandments could cause suffering for the innocent if applied too rigorously, came up with their own rules concerning how the Torah was to be properly applied, which ameliorated much of their harshness and made them more humane, which is why the Torah is now interpreted in the light of the Oral law, in contemporary Judaism. In any case, the world is a much better place for Judaism; without it, we would still be wandering in darkness.

    If he only “reluctantly permitted” the barbarous execution of homosexuals, why did he allow it to be presented as a categorical, unhesitant command of his in the Bible? Why is that falsehood so important to him?

    Given the numerous rabbinical restrictions on executions, it is unlikely that more than a few people were executed. But if you were to ask me, I’d say that God wants us to live according to a very high moral standard. He is calling us to shun sexual behaviors that can lead us away from Him. That includes homosexual acts, as well as numerous immoral acts performed by heterosexuals. The danger here is that sex can become a god in people’s lives. God wants us not to make an idol of sex, because He wants us to serve only Him. That’s what the commands relating to sexual purity are really all about. Let me add that I’m as imperfect as the next person, but I do think that on this central point, Judaism is right: sex is something that we must learn to master, or it will master us. Thanks to the Mosaic law, an entire people learned the art of self-control. That’s some achievement.

  11. keiths:

    Do you think that Moses was lying?

    Vincent:

    No, for the simple reason that he probably didn’t give the speech in the first place. The Bible is basically putting words in his mouth which we don’t know he uttered.

    Okay. So you’ve acknowledged that the Bible contains outright falsehoods, and that many of the barbaric commands it attributes to God did not in fact come from him.

    Do you still believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God?

  12. keiths:

    If he only “reluctantly permitted” the barbarous execution of homosexuals, why did he allow it to be presented as a categorical, unhesitant command of his in the Bible? Why is that falsehood so important to him?

    Vincent:

    Given the numerous rabbinical restrictions on executions, it is unlikely that more than a few people were executed.

    Even if that were true, it’s no excuse for allowing those “few people” to be be executed, nor for allowing an appalling and barbaric command to be represented, in the Bible, as a direct command from God. It appears — if we assume that the Bible is the inspired word of God — that God actually wants those commands to be attributed to him. Why is that so, particularly since you claim that he only “reluctantly permitted” those laws to stand?

    But if you were to ask me, I’d say that God wants us to live according to a very high moral standard. He is calling us to shun sexual behaviors that can lead us away from Him. That includes homosexual acts, as well as numerous immoral acts performed by heterosexuals.

    Why on earth do you think that homosexual acts lead people away from God?

    Thanks to the Mosaic law, an entire people learned the art of self-control. That’s some achievement.

    Are you kidding? They violated the law right and left. And still do.

    The Bible is full of the kind of crap we’ve been discussing. Why do you believe it is the word of God, assuming you still do?

  13. Vincent,

    No, for the simple reason that he [Moses] probably didn’t give the speech in the first place. The Bible is basically putting words in his mouth which we don’t know he uttered.

    Do you also believe that the biblical author was lying when he described God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses, in Exodus 20?

  14. Also, how do you account for God’s inordinate fondness for stoning as a punishment?

    Or is that, too, something the biblical authors lied about?

  15. vjtorley:
    The danger here is that sex can become a god in people’s lives. God wants us not to make an idol of sex, because He wants us to serve only Him. That’s what the commands relating to sexual purity are really all about.

    Your idea doesn’t work: God does not command to kill apostates, fatties, alcoholics, rich folks. All of them are in danger of something other than God becoming god in their life.

  16. Hi keiths,

    The best natural law argument I have seen put forward against homosexual acts (and a host of other unnatural acts) is Professor Edward Feser’s “In Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument,” here:
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4SjM0oabZazWC1SRmN0WXVpYkE/view

    There is another line of natural law argument which has been developed by Catholic theologian and philosophy professor Germain Grisez and by the eminent legal philosopher and jurist John Finnis. Finnis’ article, “Law, Morality and ‘Sexual Orientation,'” is available online here:
    http://scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1208&context=law_faculty_scholarship

    Before you read either of these, however, I’d advise you to have a look at Daniel Mattson’s much shorter article, Why Homosexuality is a Natural Law Issue (Crisis magazine, July 13, 2016).

    See also Trying to ‘Queer’ Natural Law by philosopher and author Daniel McInerny (The Catholic Thing, March 14, 2015).

    You also ask why God didn’t issue a clear command not to kill consenting males who engaged in homosexual acts. My reply is that not even God can square the circle. The problem here is that the commands in the Torah are being subjected to conflicting demands:

    (i) on the one hand, they needed to be couched in language which was strong enough to deter the Israelites from engaging in forbidden sexual practices that contravened the natural law;

    (ii) they also needed to appear to have an authoritative source (i.e. God speaking to Moses), in order to be binding on the entire Israelite people, despite the fact that many of the commands were codified centuries later;

    (iii) they needed to appear as fair as possible to the Jews who lived when the book of Deuteronomy was actually written in its final form (c. 600 B.C.); and

    (iv) they need to strike our modern sensibilities as fair and compassionate.

    My point is that satisfying (iv) makes it impossible to satisfy (i). What deterred Israelites living in the first millennium B.C. from committing these acts was precisely the fear of being stoned and publicly shamed, in a particularly hideous fashion. Take away the deterrent and you remove the incentive for them to change their behavior. Even on public health grounds alone, however, a taboo on homosexuality almost certainly saved far more lives than it may have cost (and I say “may have,” because we really don’t know).

    Satisfying (iii) wasn’t too hard, thanks to rabbinical rulings on how this law was to be applied. Hence we get rules of evidence which need to be satisfied before a rabbinic court can pronounce sentence.

    Satisfying (ii) was accomplished by (re)writing the Pentateuch in a way which ascribed all of its laws to Moses, who in turn received them from God.

    From a God’s eye-view, however, (i), (ii) and (iii) far outstrip (iv) in importance. We are at the bottom of the list of God’s priorities, since the Bible was primarily written for the Jews.

    I’ll say more later. That’s all for now.

  17. Vincent,

    The best natural law argument I have seen put forward against homosexual acts…

    My question wasn’t about natural law arguments against homosexuality. It was in response to this:

    He is calling us to shun sexual behaviors that can lead us away from Him. That includes homosexual acts, as well as numerous immoral acts performed by heterosexuals.

    I asked:

    Why on earth do you think that homosexual acts lead people away from God?

  18. Vincent,

    The second part of your comment makes very little sense to me.

    You’re arguing that God didn’t actually want homosexuals to suffer horrible deaths by stoning, but that he allowed that barbaric command to stand, and to be falsely attributed to him, because otherwise homosexuals wouldn’t be deterred from what you apparently consider to be a terrible violation of natural law.

    Yet you’re perfectly fine with the fact that homosexuals are no longer stoned to death, at least in the more civilized parts of the world. If the realistic threat of a horrific punishment was necessary then, why isn’t it necessary now? It’s the same terrible violation of natural law, isn’t it?

    You’ve also conceded that people actually were executed under this bogus command, which makes God directly responsible for their horrific deaths, since he allowed the bogus command to stand. Why did he allow such horrible executions to take place in his name?

    Third, this rationalization depends on the assumption that God deliberately deceived the Israelites about his wishes. Do you really believe that God had to resort to deception to achieve his aims? If so, what else might he be deceiving us about?

    Last, regarding this:

    From a God’s eye-view, however, (i), (ii) and (iii) far outstrip (iv) in importance. We are at the bottom of the list of God’s priorities, since the Bible was primarily written for the Jews.

    You don’t think the all-powerful creator of the universe could have found a way to communicate to everyone that the Bible is wrong about homosexuality, and that homosexuals shouldn’t be executed?

    Look at the hoops you’re jumping through, Vincent. All of this to avoid an obvious and straightforward conclusion:

    The Bible isn’t the word of a just, loving God.

    It’s a human book (or rather, a mish-mash of human books) that got elevated, along the way, to a status it does not deserve.

  19. keiths,

    I’ll be very brief, as it’s getting late over here.

    1. I don’t claim to know what Scriptural inspiration means. If you’d asked me a few years ago, I would have had a clearer idea. And I might add that not even the Pope seems to know what it means. Recently he’s declared that capital punishment is intrinsically wrong (I’m not sure I’d agree with him on that), notwithstanding statements in Scripture in which God, addressing the entire human race (i.e. Noah and his family after the flood – in the Bible, they are said to have been the sole survivors), depicts God as demanding (and not just permitting) capital punishment for murderers (Genesis 9:4-6). How he manages to square his liberal stance on capital punishment with his views on the inspiration of Scripture, I have no idea. And it gets worse: it appears that he’s going to declare the very notion of war immoral, rejecting St. Augustine’s “just war” theory. How he’ll reconcile that with Scripture (especially the OT), I have no idea. Jesus was not a pacifist, either.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/16/pope-francis-church-death-penalty-divisive-pontiff-catholics
    http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/18/pope-francis-just-peace-catholic-vatican-africa-isis/

    2. In any case, I don’t claim to be at all certain that Scripture is 100% inspired. No less an apologist than William Lane Craig has suggested that it might not be, and C. S. Lewis was quite emphatic that certain passages in Scripture were not inspired. As I’ve said, you can continue to believe in the central mysteries of Christianity without believing that the Bible is 100% inspired. Let’s remember that the Church of the first three centuries didn’t have a Bible, as we now know it.

    3. The notion of the Bible graphically depicting the penalties for homosexual intercourse and suggesting (falsely) that these penalties were frequently applied in the past, in order to deter the Israelites from committing homosexual acts, whose anti-social consequences in the 1st millennium I have already noted, may strike us as odd, but I would say: “If it works, it works.” In any case, the lie is not God’s, but man’s. As for any executions that may have occurred under the law: if they were executions of gangs of men who preyed on young boys from time to time, then I think we’d all agree that’s not a gay rights issue.

    4. As for why God didn’t issue another message for people living in modern times, all I can say is: I suppose He assumed we’d be intelligent enough to figure out by ourselves that homosexuals no longer pose a threat to public order and to the common good, as they did 3,000 years ago.

    5. As to how homosexual acts can lead us away from God: practically any sexual act can, if we make an idol of sex, as humans are wont to do.

    That’s all for now.

  20. Vincent,

    I don’t claim to know what Scriptural inspiration means. If you’d asked me a few years ago, I would have had a clearer idea. And I might add that not even the Pope seems to know what it means. Recently he’s declared that capital punishment is intrinsically wrong (I’m not sure I’d agree with him on that)…

    He appears to be doing the same thing you are. Each of you, when confronted with a biblical passage that troubles his conscience, defers to his conscience and looks for a way to downplay or ignore the passage. In your case that means arguing that the passage has been misinterpreted, or was never enforced, or came from someone other than God.

    In any case, I don’t claim to be at all certain that Scripture is 100% inspired. No less an apologist than William Lane Craig has suggested that it might not be, and C. S. Lewis was quite emphatic that certain passages in Scripture were not inspired.

    It’s good that you acknowledge that. Having done so, the question then becomes “What parts are inspired, if any, and how can I tell?” I suggest that the harder you look, the more apparent it will become that none of the Bible is divinely inspired. It shows all the signs of being a purely human book, and its elevation to the status of “God’s word” was a huge mistake.

    As I’ve said, you can continue to believe in the central mysteries of Christianity without believing that the Bible is 100% inspired.

    True, because you can believe anything for any reason. The problem is in justifying your beliefs, and that becomes enormously more difficult when you’ve acknowledged the unreliability of the Bible. That’s precisely why most biblical inerrantists are so adamant about the issue.

  21. Acknowledging the unreliability of the Bible does indeed open up a can of worms.

    You’ve acknowledged that the Old Testament falsely attributes some commands to God. Hence my earlier question:

    Do you also believe that the biblical author was lying when he described God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses, in Exodus 20?

  22. Vincent,

    I would say: “If it works, it works.” In any case, the lie is not God’s, but man’s.

    Why does God permit the lie, in the Bible of all places? Why doesn’t he care whether people are deceived about what he wants and commands?

    As for any executions that may have occurred under the law: if they were executions of gangs of men who preyed on young boys from time to time, then I think we’d all agree that’s not a gay rights issue.

    You’re avoiding the issue, Vincent. We aren’t talking about “gangs of men who preyed on young boys”. We’re talking about this:

    13 “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

    Leviticus 20:13, NIV

    Two men. No boys. No gangs.

    You believe that this command didn’t come from God, but that God allowed it to stand and to be attributed to him. The lie was important to him, and he didn’t want the truth to be known.

    To justify that deceit, you wrote:

    (i) on the one hand, they [the laws] needed to be couched in language which was strong enough to deter the Israelites from engaging in forbidden sexual practices that contravened the natural law;

    But as I’ve asked before: if the natural law was so important to God then, why isn’t it now?

    You also wrote:

    (ii) they also needed to appear to have an authoritative source (i.e. God speaking to Moses), in order to be binding on the entire Israelite people, despite the fact that many of the commands were codified centuries later;

    So God was perfectly willing to let the command stand, even though it was a lie, and even if it mean the barbaric execution by stoning of adult homosexuals? All because the “natural law” was so important to him? Yet now he doesn’t care enough to promote the lie, because the natural law isn’t so important to him any more?

    It makes no sense, and it paints a hideous picture of your God.

  23. Vincent,

    As for why God didn’t issue another message for people living in modern times, all I can say is: I suppose He assumed we’d be intelligent enough to figure out by ourselves that homosexuals no longer pose a threat to public order and to the common good, as they did 3,000 years ago.

    That makes no sense. You’re saying that God counted on us being “intelligent enough” to figure out that the command was a lie, that it didn’t come from God, that homosexuality wasn’t an abomination, and that the real reason God permitted the law was to promote “public order and the common good”? Even though the Bible says none of that, and even though he did want the Israelites to fall for the ruse?

    Come on, Vincent. You are really reaching here.

    As to how homosexual acts can lead us away from God: practically any sexual act can, if we make an idol of sex, as humans are wont to do.

    That doesn’t explain why the Bible — and you — single out homosexuality in particular for condemnation.

  24. keiths: That doesn’t explain why the Bible — and you — single out homosexuality in particular for condemnation.

    There are plenty of other things singled out, such as incest and and bestiality. Why would you single out homosexuality as the perversion that must be normalized?

  25. Erik: Why would you single out homosexuality as the perversion that must be normalized?

    How did you determine that it is a perversion? What do you even mean by that?

  26. Rumraket: How did you determine that it is a perversion? What do you even mean by that?

    When we are talking about things condemned in the Bible, we are inevitably also talking about other things, such as “abomination to God”. If you don’t know what these things are, then you don’t know what you are talking about.

    Keiths is, as a minimum, wrong about that homosexuality is singled out in some way. Condemnation of homosexuality is part of a wider system.

  27. Erik: When we are talking about things condemned in the Bible, we are inevitably also talking about other things, such as “abomination to God”. If you don’t know what these things are, then you don’t know what you are talking about.

    I know what they are, I’m questioning the whole concept of “abomination to God”.

    “It says so in the bible” shouldn’t be a factor in how we structure society.

  28. Hi keiths,

    This will be my last post on this thread, so I’m happy to give you the last word.

    When I look at the laws in the Torah, what interests me most is what God actually prohibits: things like child sacrifice, idolatry, revenge, slander, cheating, mistreatment of the poor and of resident immigrants, and cruelty to animals, and also sexual practices such as adultery (and even coveting another person’s spouse), incest, homosexuality and of course, bestiality. Most of these prohibitions make sense to me. (There are also a few funny prohibitions like sowing two kinds of seeds in the same field and eating pork, but I’m prepared to give the Israelites the benefit of the doubt and assume that there was a reason back then for those prohibitions.)

    The unmistakable sense I get, when I’m reading the Torah, is that it isn’t just another man-made book. It isn’t like any other law code in the Ancient Middle East, as I’ve already explained. It is a document ahead of its time. The only writings from the first millennium B.C. that compare favorably with it are Plato’s Laws (348 B.C.) and Asoka the Greta’s Rock Edicts (269-232 B.C.). But unlike these documents, the Torah claims to be given and spoken from a God’s-eye point of view. And for all its ferocity, the God of the Torah turns out to be a God Who loves the poor, weak and defenseless, Who detests exploitation of the weak and helpless, and Who demands total and complete devotion to Him and Him alone, to the exclusion of all other gods. That is God’s personality.

    The penalties in the Torah are another matter. They serve as a deterrent. Some of them are pretty bloodcurdling, and you might wonder how they could be squared with a just God. I don’t think they can be, in many cases, which raises the puzzling question of how they came to be ascribed to God. My best guess is that while the morality of the Torah is ancient, the penalties are not: they originated centuries later, as a way of codifying the practices which the Jews had adopted, and of proscribing acts that contravened those practices. My guess is that the scribes who put the Torah together in its final form deliberately made the penalties as frightening as possible (to deter would-be offenders), but at the same time, softened and restricted the scope of the application of those penalties – partly in order to minimize the number of people unjustly sentenced, and partly out of recognition that a literal application of these laws would make them draconian.

    Re homosexuality: I realize that the natural law arguments have their critics, but if you happen to view the ideal marriage as being something monogamous and lifelong, then a problem arises: there’s no inherent reason why a homosexual relationship should be either monogamous or lifelong. And if you think that humans reach their full potential, as persons, within the context of a relationship which is both monogamous and lifelong, then homosexuality will appear to fall short in this regard, and even appear anti-marital (in the above sense of “marital”), since it openly celebrates love which is often neither monogamous nor lifelong. I think that’s why the OT uses the very harsh term “abomination” to describe it.

    You scoff at the notion that the death penalty might have been restricted to the most heinous homosexual offenses – e.g. men who happened to be members of gangs that preyed on young boys – but I wouldn’t be so sure. Take the death penalty in Japan, for instance. In theory, it can be given as a punishment for any act of murder, but in practice, it’s restricted to those who have murdered on two separate occasions. That’s why the number of executions in Japan is so low, when compared to the U.S.

    You also ask how humans could figure out that “the command was a lie, that it didn’t come from God, that homosexuality wasn’t an abomination, and that the real reason God permitted the law was to promote ‘public order and the common good’? Even though the Bible says none of that.” I’ve already answered your question on “abomination.” As to the command coming from God, I would answer: the prohibition did, but the penalty didn’t. And yes, I don’t think it’s too much for humans to figure out that the harshness of the penalty might have had to do with the harm done to public order by the act itself, and that penalties which may have made sense in ancient Israel may no longer apply today. But if you’re skeptical, I would add that most Christians (who happen to be Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican) don’t believe that individuals can figure out the Bible’s meaning, all by themselves, anyway. That’s why we have a Church to guide us. And often, even the Church takes centuries to render its verdict on the interpretation of a passage in Scripture, or an issue relating to faith and morals.

    You ask why God doesn’t promote the natural law now, if it’s so good and rational. The answer is that He’s left a lot to human freedom, in striving to make the world a better place. It isn’t that He doesn’t care about morality; rather, it’s simply that acts contravening the natural law are only punishable by the communityif they actually pose a danger to that community. Nowadays, generally speaking, homosexual acts don’t. Hence the penalties have largely fallen into disuse.

    I think I shall lay down my pen here. Over to you.

  29. vjtorley: Re homosexuality: I realize that the natural law arguments have their critics, but if you happen to view the ideal marriage as being something monogamous and lifelong, then a problem arises: there’s no inherent reason why a homosexual relationship should be either monogamous or lifelong. And if you think that humans reach their full potential, as persons, within the context of a relationship which is both monogamous and lifelong, then homosexuality will appear to fall short in this regard, and even appear anti-marital (in the above sense of “marital”), since it openly celebrates love which is often neither monogamous nor lifelong. I think that’s why the OT uses the very harsh term “abomination” to describe it.

    So you would say a lifelong, monogamous homosexual marriage is closer to the ideal than a heterosexual marriage that ends on divorce due to infidelity?

  30. dazz: So you would say a lifelong, monogamous homosexual marriage is closer to the ideal than a heterosexual marriage that ends on divorce due to infidelity?

    In true Torley style, Vincent for some reason failed to mention what, from the theist POV, is essential to marriage. “Monogamous lifelong” is part of it, but insufficient. Feser covers it with hardly any embarrassment, Torley never will.

  31. Vincent,

    The unmistakable sense I get, when I’m reading the Torah, is that it isn’t just another man-made book.

    That’s because you approach it already believing that it’s the word of God, and you want to continue in that belief. You’re looking for confirmation rather than evaluating it objectively.

    And for all its ferocity, the God of the Torah turns out to be a God Who loves the poor, weak and defenseless…

    You mean, like the children he drowned in the Flood, or the innocents whose slaughter he ordered here?

    3 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.’”

    1 Samuel 15:3

    Vincent:

    …Who detests exploitation of the weak and helpless…

    You mean, like these girls?

    7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.

    Exodus 21:7

    Vincent:

    …and Who demands total and complete devotion to Him and Him alone, to the exclusion of all other gods.

    And is so insecure that he demands the deaths, by stoning, of those who don’t give him that “total and complete devotion”:

    2 If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the Lord gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God in violation of his covenant, 3 and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars in the sky, 4 and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death.

    Deuteronomy 17:2-5

    The God of the Bible is an embarrassment, Vincent. You know this, which is why you are trying to blame the unsavory bits on the human authors, arguing that they were lying about God.

    But what does it say about God, that he would permit this barbarism, this idiocy, and these outright lies in his supposed Holy Word? He doesn’t really seem to give a shit, does he?

    A far better (and obvious) explanation is that the Bible is a purely human book. It gives every sign of being one, and falls far short of what one would expect from a God worthy of the name.

  32. Vincent,

    I realize that the natural law arguments have their critics, but if you happen to view the ideal marriage as being something monogamous and lifelong, then a problem arises: there’s no inherent reason why a homosexual relationship should be either monogamous or lifelong.

    It’s odd that you would say that in defense of the Old Testament, in which divorce, polygamy, and concubines are all A-OK.

    There’s no inherent reason why homosexual or heterosexual relationships should be monogamous or lifelong, as the Bible itself shows. So again, why single out homosexuality as an ‘abomination’?

  33. vjtorley:

    You scoff at the notion that the death penalty might have been restricted to the most heinous homosexual offenses – e.g. men who happened to be members of gangs that preyed on young boys – but I wouldn’t be so sure.

    I am going by the words of the passage itself, while you are trying very hard to ignore them:

    13 “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

    Leviticus 20:13, NIV

    Two men. No boys. No gangs.

    Your conscience, like mine, can’t countenance this verse, which commands the horrific stoning deaths of consenting adult homosexuals. You, like me, conclude that the verse did not come from a loving and just God. What you are still trying to do — unsuccessfully — is to rationalize its retention as part of God’s Holy Word, and to argue (out of sheer hope) that it was never applied as written.

    The Bible is full of stuff like this, Vincent. Even you don’t trust it; you defer to your conscience instead. You are presented with a crappy book full of atrocities, injustices, goofy prohibitions, draconian punishments, lies, and stupidity; yet instead of simply regarding it as yet another human book, you insist on elevating it to the status of God’s Word. Why (other than the fact that you were taught to believe that and have done so for decades)?

    You believe that God is powerful, loving, and just. Why insult him by labeling the Bible as “divinely inspired”?

  34. Vincent,

    Look at the problems you create for yourself by clinging to the notion that the Bible is divinely inspired:

    1. You encounter passages describing atrocities and commands so horrible that your conscience rejects them. But that creates a problem for you: the divinely inspired Bible attributes them to God. You can’t have that; you want your God to be good.

    2. Since you can’t bear to attribute them to God, you need to pin them on someone else. You blame the biblical authors.

    3. That creates another problem for you, because now the “divinely inspired” Bible contains falsehoods, and quite a lot of them.

    4. Further, you now have to explain why God tolerates these falsehoods and allows these atrocities and horrible commands to be attributed to him, in a book that is supposedly his Holy Word.

    5. So you come up with further rationalizations about how it’s all for a good purpose: that God promotes the deception in service of a greater good, which is to scare the Israelites onto the straight and narrow.

    6. But now you have a God who is blatantly deceptive. So not only can’t you determine which parts of the Bible are human lies vs. divinely sourced; you wouldn’t be able to trust the divinely sourced ones anyway, because God might be deceiving you. He’s perfectly fine having lies in his Holy Book, after all.

    It’s an awful mess, and it all traces back to the silly idea that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. Let go of that idea, and you no longer have to make excuse after excuse for the Bible. It isn’t God’s Word; it’s a messed-up collection of human books, with all the faults that human books possess. The atrocities and horrific commands? The result of a barbaric people creating a God in their own image. The falsehoods? Only to be expected in a human work.

    You’re already trusting your own conscience over what the Bible says. That’s wise. It isn’t a trustworthy book.

  35. It’s too bad Vincent didn’t get around to answering these questions:

    Do you also believe that the biblical author was lying when he described God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses, in Exodus 20?

    And:

    Also, how do you account for God’s inordinate fondness for stoning as a punishment?

    Or is that, too, something the biblical authors lied about?

    The issue of the Ten Commandments is interesting because most Christians think they’re genuine. I wonder if Vincent does, given that they appear in the same speech (of God’s) in which the following sickening passage does:

    20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.

    Exodus 21:20-21

    They come from the same speech. What justifies accepting one but not the other, other than a simple desire to get God off the hook for the latter?

  36. Christians,

    Vincent thinks that at least some of the unsavory commands in the Bible are lies introduced by the human authors — lies that God permitted. What do the rest of you think about that?

    Is he right, in your opinion? If not, then how do you rationalize some of the more assholish commands that God issued, which we’ve been discussing in this thread?

  37. The Sun has a huge hole

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23631482-800-hiding-in-plain-sight-the-mystery-of-the-suns-missing-matter/

    Luke 21:25-26

    “25 There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among the nations, bewildered by the roaring of the sea and the surging of the waves. 26 Men will faint from fear and anxiety over what is coming upon the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

    The Moon is up next…

  38. vjtorley: I realize that the natural law arguments have their critics, but if you happen to view the ideal marriage as being something monogamous and lifelong, then a problem arises: there’s no inherent reason why a homosexual relationship should be either monogamous or lifelong. And if you think that humans reach their full potential, as persons, within the context of a relationship which is both monogamous and lifelong, then homosexuality will appear to fall short in this regard, and even appear anti-marital (in the above sense of “marital”), since it openly celebrates love which is often neither monogamous nor lifelong. I think that’s why the OT uses the very harsh term “abomination” to describe it.

    That’s all completely wrong.

    1. Natural law is vile bullshit.

    2. If there’s no “inherent reason” why homosexual relationships should be monogamous and lifelong, then there’s no “inherent reason” why heterosexual relationships should be monogamous or lifelong, either.

    3. Even if one were to grant that there’s intrinsic value to a lifelong, monogamous relationship, there’s no reason at all to think that this kind of relationship is more easily achieved for heterosexuals than for homosexuals.

    4. The Old Testament does not prohibit homosexual relationships premised on mutuality and love. What it actually says is quite different. What it says is that it is an “abomination” to lie with a man as one lies with a woman.

    Now, this raises the question: how does one lie with a woman, in the Old Testament picture of domestic sexual relations? The ancient Israelites, like every ancient society that we know of, was highly patriarchal. Women were property, and marriage was a property exchange between men, from father to husband. There is no such thing as ‘marital rape’ because a husband can do to his wife whatever he wants.

    So when Leviticus says that is is an abomination to lie with a man as one lies with a woman, the context is: don’t rape men.

  39. J-Mac:

    The Sun has a huge hole

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23631482-800-hiding-in-plain-sight-the-mystery-of-the-suns-missing-matter/

    Luke 21:25-26

    “25 There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among the nations, bewildered by the roaring of the sea and the surging of the waves. 26 Men will faint from fear and anxiety over what is coming upon the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

    The Moon is up next…

  40. For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously,
    and that from before birth you were called a rebel.

    Isaiah 48:8

    God know people will be evil even before they would be born. He knew Osama Bin Laden would be a bad person, he could have killed him first, but chose not to.

    But the point is, God may know that someone will or has the capacity to be a bad apple, and thus may choose to end his life early.

  41. No thread on the Christian God’s injustice would be complete without citing this gem of a passage:

    11 If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, 12 you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.

    Deuteronomy 25:11-12, NIV

  42. A relevant comment from an old thread:

    Woodbine, to fifth:

    Even Confucius thinks your god is a prick.

    Even fifth seems to think his god is a prick.

    When asked about this verse…

    If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.

    Deuteronomy 25:11-12, NIV

    …fifth’s “defense” was:

    Of course that punishment was only relevant to those few folks who lived in the ancient pre-exile nation of Israel (Mathew 5:38-39)

    That’s persuasive. God was an asshole in this case, but not to everyone. Only to “those few folks” who had the bad luck of being among God’s “chosen people.”

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