Many people think that because I believe that the Bible is fiction that it automatically means that I haven’t read it or that I do not like it. The fact is that I love the Bible… as a book if bronze aged fiction. As a book claiming to be divine and historical truth I think it is a pretty weak book. To demonstrate just how weak a book the Bible is on those grounds, I will take a page from one of America’s greatest patriots, Thomas Paine. In Paine’s work, “The Age of Reason part II” I discovered my favorite Bible verse. It seems that Paine found it amusing too:
“Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” – Numbers 31:17-18
Out of all the verses in the Bible this one is my absolute favorite. The reason? It is the most indefensible verse in the entire Bible. Here God has ordered Moses to murder then entire Midianites village except the virgins and then to rape the virgins. I try to bring this verse to the attention of many Christians that I talk to and over the years I have gotten a variety of attempts to explain away this most indefensible verse.
One Christian response that I have gotten a few times was, “it was war and shit happened.” But if Barack Obama or George W. Bush had told our US Generals to take the troops into Baghdad and kill ALL the men and ALL the women except the virgin women and then to have sex with the virgin women (i.e. rape) we would surely think that our leaders were horrible people. There is no way our soldiers would even follow those orders because those orders would seem so immoral and would be completely illegal. The President would be impeached in a second and on trial for war crimes. But if God gave those orders (and he did according to the Bible) no one seems to have a problem with that? In fact, people would still worship a perfect being that gave such a completely morally reprehensible order?
Then I get the “Context” argument from many Christians who seem to think this the argument for anything an atheist like me has to say about the Bible. The Bible clearly gives the context for why God gave the order of genocide and rape. The Midianites didn’t “hate” the Jews. They didn’t care about the Jews at all. They worshiped Ba’al Zebul a fertility God. Yahweh (aka Yam) was jealous God (by his own admission) and decided to order his people (the Hebrews) to wage war. The raping of the virgins was like an extra fuck you to Ba’al Zebul. Yahweh is your God. While the Bible makes mention of sexual atrocities that Midianites committed in the name of their deity that was very clearly not the reason Yahweh gave for his command. Besides, what possible injustice could anyone do in which mass murder and rape would someone be considered Just? I can think of no possible context, which would bring me to the conclusion that, “Oh mass murder and rape was a well deserved divine punishment for those people.” Rape is one of the few things in which there is no justifiable context for.
Next we have yet another attempted defense of this indefensible verse. This horrific verse is old. It was in the Old Testament and not the New Testament and for some reason we should ignore some of the verses, which we really don’t like, that are in the Old Testament despite the obvious fact that God is supposed to be perfect and some Bible verses even say that he can’t change, these Christians are claiming that even though he ordered this horrific act (and many similarly horrific acts in the Old Testament) now he is different. If Hitler were alive today and didn’t bother to say that he was sorry for the Holocaust, but just went around and told people to “turn the other cheek” should we forgive him for the Holocaust? Let me ask, how many times in the Bible did Jesus say Rape and Genocide were bad? The answer is zero, zip, zilch, none, not a one. Instead, Jesus defends the actions of Yahweh (God) many times. He even stated:
“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 5:18
The Christian claim that the Old Testament doesn’t count, but Jesus seems to think it does count. He seems to be saying that ever “jot” of it still counts. Besides, it is quite a big leap for God to claim that rape is cool and then to for him not to say anything against rape later and for Christians to somehow interpret that to mean that rape is sinful. Plus, Jesus always talks about doing his father’s work. If Yahweh were my father, I certainly wouldn’t be doing his work if he ordered genocide and rape to a bunch of people who worshiped Cupid.
And what about the big Ten Commandments? They are in the Old Testament and not a one of them states that, “Thou shall not rape.” Besides most Christians still think that the Ten Commandments are pretty worthy of following despite the fact that they are in the Old Testament.
Finally, some Christians claim that atheists take the Bible too literally. The whole claim to fame of the Bible was that it was written/inspired (through the holy ghost) by God the most perfect being to ever exist. Clearly, when the Bible talks about Jesus not coming to send peace but instead coming with a sword (Matthew 10:34) that is not to mean that Jesus is literally holding a sword. It is a metaphor. But what is it a metaphor for? If he had said that he came with a rose, I would assume that he meant love. But one does not love with a sword. A sword is a weapon of violence. Plus Jesus specifically stated that he didn’t come to bring peace. So that makes his metaphor pretty clear to me. And with my favorite verse, I think that story is supposed to be some sort of literal history and if that wasn’t the purpose, than I am at a loss for what such a metaphor would be saying. Moses is clearly the good guy in the story. We are supposed to be routing for him.
Fortunately, there has never been any evidence that suggests that the story of Numbers actually is a true account. Like the Mormon accounts of religious wars in the Americas, not one shred of archeological evidence has turned up to confirm these atrocities. But still, Numbers 31: 17-18 remains my favorite verse even though I am reasonably certain that it is a fictional account and that the Bible as a whole is fiction.
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