Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Big Book of Multiple Choice, Pt. III: Yahweh and Morality

One of the more appalling things I unveiled during my due diligence was the bible's lack of morality, and what makes it even more appalling is the fact that people mindlessly say it's the foundation for their morality. 

They also often spout off that unbelievers can't be moral without religion and without a sacred text, but that's not only remarkably inaccurate but utterly contemptible. How dare they say people are incapable of having a moral compass without a god. If the bible is the basis for morality then I don't want to be moral in the eyes of those who believe this tripe.

Christopher Hitchens, the late columnist and brilliant orator, was an antitheist, meaning not only didn't he believe in gods, but he absolutely didn't want there to be any god. He often doled out this challenge during his many debates with religious leaders and theists: Show me any moral deed or statement done by any believer that a nonbeliever can't do. It can't be done. Then he would follow that by asking if you could think of any immoral deed done by a believer in the name of religion. Of course dozens spring to mind. Point, Mr. Hitchens.

This segues nicely into Yahweh. If I'm being perfectly honest, until I started this quest, I had no idea who Yahweh was. And this is testament (pardon the pun) to the Catholic Church conveniently covering up the Old Testament and trying to focus solely on Jesus (as if he were any better). I absolutely never knew who Yahweh was, and funnily enough, the first time I ever heard that name was in a U2 song, and I had no idea what they were singing about, I just liked the album. Here's a particularly poignant verse:

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, tell me now
Why the dark before the dawn?

The bible is its blatant slap at morality all the while being held up as the basis of morality in religions. Such hypocritical thinking. Some examples: approved and promoted slavery, (Yahweh tells Moses to instruct his followers about the conditions under which they may buy or sell slaves -- or bore their ears through with an awl -- and the rules governing the sale of their daughters), genocide, murder, rape, misogynism, chauvinism and child abuse, among other atrocities. 

Speaking of Moses, after coming down from Mt. Sanai (a place that has yet to be discovered by the way), Moses has the commandments that say (among others) thou shalt not kill, and yet he and his followers proceed to murder thousands of people that very afternoon because they lost faith, melted down some gold and made a calf from it. 

“Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.” -- Exodus 32:27

On that day, about 3,000 people were killed. That's 3K innocents murdered in the name of religion. Sound familiar, 9/11 victims? Some devout Christians may point to the fact that these people lost faith and worshipped a "false" god, which I find ironic, and say that means they weren't innocent. I would argue these people didn't have commandments to follow yet, and they certainly did nothing to deserve death.

When people use the excuse that these atrocities were accepted because it was from another time, I have to ask, then how is Yahweh omniscient? He sees all, past, present and future. Slavery is abolished now, and considered by "god's children" to be a bad thing, but god couldn't see that just 2,000 years ago? Wouldn't a god know we would find this practice to be reprehensible someday? Do we know better than Yahweh? And why is it that there is no more slavery? Aren't Christians defying god by not practicing slavery, something he demanded and encouraged? Or are we just civilized human beings who can recognize a wishful-thinking fable written by uneducated slave owners? Are we wretched human playthings more advanced than this "deity" after all?

Here are some more great moral tales from the bible:

Before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham's nephew Lot was chosen to be spared with his family because he was righteous. Two male "angels" were sent to Sodom to warn Lot to leave the city before the brimstone arrived. Lot welcomed them into his house, whereupon all the men of Sodom gathered around and demanded Lot hand the angels over so that they could sodomize them: 

"Where are the men which came into thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them." -- Genesis 19:5.

Yes, "know" has the euphemistic meaning of anal sex. Lot refused, giving at first blush the appearance that God was correct in his assessment of Lot as the only good man in Sodom.

But then this: "I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof." -- Genesis 19:7-8. 

Talk about child abuse, sex slavery and downright poor parenting. By the way, angels intervened here (as they so often do when it comes to gruesome tests of loyalty to Yahweh) and they blinded the townsmen.

If Lot is the person god felt was moral and worthy of saving, then believers can all breathe a little easier when it comes to "Judgement Day." To add a little more to this morality gem, Lot loses his wife, who is turned into a pillar of salt because she had the audacity to look back at the fireworks when god instructed them not to. 

And, finally, after the remaining family settled in a cave, Lot's horny daughters raped him (after getting him drunk on consecutive nights) and they both were impregnated. And why is this glossed over by Christians? Because there were no other men around so it's OK to have incestuous sex with dad, despite a populated town residing just a few miles away. 

Great morality; what a lesson to teach children. But they don't teach this to kids, they only pick and choose what they want their youngsters to learn, like a salad bar of religion and morality. You can't cherry-pick from a book that stands for something; it defeats the purpose of the book and sullies its meaning, hence rendering it worthless. If you can't love the book for its faults, then you can't truly love it, just like a child.

But intervening angels were nowhere to be found when this next story is told, and it eerily echoes Lot's tale. In Chapter 19 of the Book of Judges, an unnamed Levite (priest) was travelling with his concubine in Gibeah when they spent the night in the house of a hospitable old man. While they were eating supper, the men of the city beat on the door, demanding the old man should hand over his male guest "so that we may know him." In almost exactly the same words as Lot, the old man said: 

"Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house do not this folly. Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you; but unto this man do not so vile a thing." -- Judges 19:23-4. 

Again, the misogynistic ethos comes through, loud and clear: Enjoy yourselves by humiliating and raping my daughter and this priest's concubine, but show a proper respect for my guest who is, after all, a man. But the guardian angels weren't there this time, as we shall see.

The Levite handed his concubine over to the mob, who gang-raped her all night: "They knew her and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light." -- Judges 19:25-6. 

In the morning, the Levite found his concubine lying prostrate on the doorstep and said callously, "Up, and let us be going." But she didn't move. She was dead. So he "took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into 12 pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel." -- Judges 19:29. 

And lest we forget when god ordered Abraham to make a burnt offering of his son. Abraham built an altar, put firewood upon it, and trussed Isaac up on top of the wood. His murdering knife was already in his hand when an angel dramatically intervened (sound familiar?) with the news of a last-minute change of plan: Yahweh was only joking after all, "tempting" Abraham, and testing his faith to use his righteousness as an example for future generations to follow. 

Anyone who says Abraham knew Yahweh wouldn't make him kill his son is contradicting their definition of faith. If Abraham had true faith, as so many are led to believe, then he wouldn't be thinking that god wouldn't make him kill Isaac, he would be happy to kill him. Also, if Abraham truly was thinking that god would, at the last minute, send a lamb and spare his son, then wouldn't the omniscient Yahweh know Abraham was merely going through the motions and not genuinely being faithful?

Morally, I can't help but deduce Isaac would suffer tremendous unrecoverable psychological trauma. Yet the legend is one of the great foundational myths of all three monotheistic religions. And Abraham's betrayal of his son is dismissed as a mere allegorical lesson to honor god above all others. Sick. 

And you can draw the parallels to how god would sacrifice Jesus later in a turn of the tables, but this is a false premise in that Jesus really didn't die because he was "resurrected" and essentially being delivered back to his father, the exact opposite of what would have happened to Isaac. Would Isaac have been resurrected? Don't count on it.

And we find a story just as similar, and again, with not such a "happy" ending.

In Judges, Chapter 11, the military leader Jephthah told god that, if god would guarantee Jephthah's victory over the Ammonites, Jephthah would, without fail, sacrifice as a burnt offering "whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return." Jephthah did indeed defeat the Ammonites (more genocide). His daughter, his only child, came out of the house to greet him first. What did this idiot expect, a stranger to emerge from his house? Where was the intervening angel then? Nowhere, as Jephthah ultimately cooked her. 

I bring up these stories for the inevitable questions I will face as I reveal my atheism. As I mentioned earlier, people will no doubt ask how can I be moral if I have no god guiding me? It's actually an insulting question, but the naive/condescending ones who ask it will not realize they are insulting me because of their innate religious blinders. 

The truth is people don't need scriptures or a fear of eternal hellfire to do the right thing. There are countless examples of tribes and packs practicing solidarity to protect each other, long before religion and deities.

Many Christians actually believe the golden rule (do onto others as you would have done to you) is their invention, when in fact it easily dates to at least 500 BC and Confucianism. It probably even appears earlier than that but no need to pinpoint it any further. It's clearly a concept we have followed centuries before gods were around.

Here's a true story to prove the point.

At 8 a.m. on Oct. 17, 1969, the Montreal police went on strike. You'll remember that this takes place in passive Canada where front doors are always unlocked and violence and crime are almost nonexistent. 

By 11:20 a.m., the first bank was robbed. By noon, most downtown stores had closed because of looting. Within a few more hours, taxi drivers burned down the garage of a rival limousine service that competed for airport customers; a rooftop sniper killed a provincial police officer; rioters broke into several hotels and restaurants, and a doctor killed a burglar in his home. 

By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, 12 fires had been set, 40 tons of storefront glass had been broken, and $3M in property damage had been inflicted (not to mention a handful of deaths), before city authorities had to call in the army and the Mounties to restore order. 

Certainly most (if not all) of these people were Christians. Where was their morality that god and his "good book" had instilled? People don't need god to be good, they just need morals ... and police. In fact, if religious believers make up 90-95 percent of the world's population then why do we need police? Because mankind isn't perfect, and god and scripture certainly aren't where we get our morals, and if we do, it definitely isn't powerful or believable enough to render police obsolete, as Montreal proved. Morals are innate, not instilled, and certainly not coerced. 

According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Christians make up almost 80 percent of the prison population. Atheists make up about 0.2 percent. The godless don't fill prisons. Published studies also indicate a child's risk of sexual abuse by a family member increases as the family's religious denomination becomes more conservative, that is, when the teachings of scriptures and other doctrines are taken more literally. Similarly, the probability of wife abuse increases with the rigidity of a church's teachings pertaining to gender roles and hierarchy.

As Richard Dawkins wrote in his book, the God Delusion, "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." 

After reading the OT, how could any freethinker disagree? Is it perhaps that these attributes sound exactly like the Middle East unwashed, uneducated, misogynistic men of the Bronze Age, rather than a deity? Can't we deduce that god didn't invent man, but man invented god?

Obviously enough people actually felt back then what Dawkins has shrewdly pointed out now, that Yahweh was impossible to love and follow, which explains why the New Testament was fabricated, to present a kindler, gentler deity. But was he? Was Jesus a better version of Yahweh? I guess we'll find out.

I say fabricated because it's beyond coincidence that the attributes of this "savior" resemble or downright mimic scores of other mythological deities. The list is far too long, but any search of non-Christian religious/cultures' sacred texts will in fact prove this. Start with Mithras, Krishna and Dionysus, who predate Jesus, and you'll be amazed. And you can find plenty more.

I'll move on to the New Testament and Jesus in my next post.

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