I am continuing my blog series on religion, and I plan (really hope to) make a new post every Sunday. I’m going to try to keep myself to a schedule.
Christians the United States over are calling for a return to Biblical morality. They claim that the downfall of our civilization was caused by removing the Bible and prayer from public schools. In their minds, the moral nature of the Bible is an irrefutable fact. As an illustration of this, I found the posted on one social media channel just yesterday: “The Bible must be the foundation for moral philosophy.” They see the rejection Biblical morality is a sign of moral bankruptcy. When I responded that the Bible was a terrible foundation for any moral code, the poster insisted that I “wouldn’t know immoral if it slapped [me] in the face.” The poster was convinced that I couldn’t have read the Bible, and I must just want to sin. This is the most frequent accusation they throw at non-believers.
On all accounts, the poster was mistaken. As I’ve stated before, I was raised in a conservative Mormon family. Not only did we attend church for three hours every Sunday, we had family scripture study and family prayer daily. When I reached ninth grade, I started what the Mormons call seminary. Not to be confused with seminaries that train pastors, Mormon seminary is a daily religious class for teenagers. Mormon teens the world over get up early before school to attend an hour long religious study course. However, since I grew up in Utah, getting up early wasn’t necessary for me to attend seminary. Throughout Utah, the Mormon Church builds seminary buildings across the street from every high school. Students can get release time to cross the street to attend seminary during any class period throughout the day as well as early morning or after school. In seminary, we studied the Bible and other Mormon scriptures.
Yes, I’ve read the entire Bible, more than once in fact. While I remained a believer for far too long, reading the Bible was a part of my long deconversion. The amount of cognitive dissonance the Bible caused me and the mental gymnastics it forced me to perform in order to remain a believer was a truly impressive feat. But the doubts could not be satisfied and wouldn’t go away. I eventually had to face the reality that the Bible is not a moral book nor is the god it depicts a moral being. Maybe, if you just confined your Bible reading to the Gospels, you could argue for a moral foundation, but step outside those four books, and Biblical immorality is nearly ever present.
While the examples of this immorality are nearly endless, today I will just discuss the Israelite conflict with the Midianites in the Book of Numbers. In the first two verses of the chapter, the Lord commands the Israelites to “take vengeance” upon the Midianites, and so they do, killing all of the adult men. They bring back the women and children as spoils of war, but God isn’t satisfied with this revenge. In fact, Moses is angry that they “kept all the women alive.” He orders them to “kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately.” (emphasis added)
This foundation of moral philosophy commands the genocide of all males and all adult women in a population, but allows the men to keep the young girls as sex slaves. How is this moral? Even if you can somehow argue that the adults were bad so they deserved it (a dubious claim at best), how is ordering the slaughter of little boys the act of a righteous god? How can keeping little girls as sex slaves be morally justified?
Anyone who wants to claim that the Bible is a good guide to a moral life explain this to me.