It appears that some people are in doubt as to how the Bible says one should treat their own children. Someone “highly doubts God would condone murdering a 19 month old baby for not saying AMEN” and thinks that I should reread the Bible, praying before and after every single passage. Someone else complains about verses being taken “out of context” and others just say that they don’t “live by Old Testament ways,” despite Jesus’ firm command to the contrary.
One of the many cultural myths with which I would like to do away is the notion that the Bible is somehow a sturdy moral foundation for our lives, particularly where families are concerned. To that end, I have compiled ten of the meatiest verses from both Hebrew and Christian Testament on the treatment of child and family. Of course, as these are the rules of an extinct ancient theocracy and not a modern society, they are appropriately barbaric. They are so over-the-top crazy that no sane person should assent to them, and I sincerely doubt any “Biblical literalists” are so evil as to obey them, if they are even aware of them:
10. God deems it good to punish Babylon by smashing her infant children to bits on the street, so right off the rod we know that the slaughter of children cannot be a priori an evil thing in Biblical morality. (Isaiah 13:16)
9. Jesus himself will cause your family and your household to be torn apart, so now we also know that it can’t be a priori an evil thing to ruin families in Biblical morality. (Luke 21:16)
8. The sexual enslavement of thousands of children (32,000, to be exact) is OK, as long as God has already told you to murder their families, so we also know that neither genocide or the sexual torture of children is a priori an evil deed in Biblical morality. (Numbers 31:17-18)
7. If you mock or disobey your parents, the birds-of-prey will devour your eyes right out of your head, so the disfigurement of your own children also cannot be a sin. (Proverbs 30:17)
6. If a ruthless dictator doesn’t manumit his slaves at the request of a single random soothsayer, the morally good response is to murder the children of everyone in the nation, even if they have never even heard of Moses or his god, so for the Bible moralist it is morally good to punish people for deeds in which they took no part. (Exodus 12:29)
5. A superficial (read: literal) reading of the story of the binding of Isaac makes it clear that your moral duty to obey a pernicious command from above far outweighs any love you might have for your own offspring. In Bible ethics, then, standing up for your own bloodline is not a priori a morally good action. (Genesis 22:2-13)
4. If children make fun of your bald head, the appropriate response is to have them massacred by bears. This way, we know that in Biblical morality, punishments need no proportion to the crimes. (2nd Kings 2:23)
3. If you don’t hate your mom, your dad, your siblings, your children, and yourself, Jesus is wrong for you. So in Biblical morality, a cohesive family unit is a moral aberration. (Luke 14:26)
2. If a child is disobedient and doesn’t listen to his parents, have the entire town get together and execute him The Lottery-style. There is no exception made here for “19 month old babies who don’t say AMEN.” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
1. And of course the most famous father-son relationship in the Bible is God’s own: God loves us so much that he would torture and murder his own son to save us from God’s own wrath.
So, we have learned (1) that the murder, torture, rape, disfigurement, and ritual execution of children is morally permissible in certain cases, (2) the very existence of a loving family structure is morally impermissible, and (3) and annihilation of entire cultures is OK so long as the young children are spared to fulfill the victors’ sexual lust. All this is the case, unless either God is not good, or God is not the author of the Bible.
We are very fortunate indeed, then, that virtually all so-called “Biblical literalists” are either unaware of or too morally good to follow the commands to slaughter and torture written about in the Bible. While I have a great deal to say on this question, particular on the pertinence of these arguments to the Euthyphro Dilemma, I feel the point has been made so I will let it rest.
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I am a secular humanist. I rely on reason to understand the world, and compassion guides my effort to apply my knowledge ethically. I behave decently to everyone without any expectation of rewards or punishment after I'm dead.
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