Before I get into it, I think I'll shed some light on why I'm responding to this in particular. The following twitter 'conversation' happened today, between me and a follower of a work colleague. I'm xwipeoutx, and I've changed the other guy's name to "Other Guy", in case he wants anonymity (though his twitter is public, so I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter). Excuse my poor formatting... the style sheet on this blog only does so much.
Other guy: #Religous should not have these jobs.RT @BibleAlsoSays: Pharmacist refuses to issue pill because of her religion http://tinyurl.com/ykq5hbj
xwipeoutx: @[other guy] via [colleague]: Way to generalise. How about #thatperson shouldn't have that job?
Other Guy: no! no religous person should have jobs like that if they don't understand the basics about how the world works. #christianfools
xwipeoutx: no athiest person should have jobs like that if they don't understand the basics about how the world works. #athiestfools
Other Guy: your stupid.B original @least loser bitch. How many children your religion has killed.Ill send u a news article that will tell u
xwipeoutx: Yeah, that's not worth replying to. And they say we're the intolerant ones.
Other Guy: you can't. You need to have a base knowledge of reality. Something evolution has left out in you.
What followed was a long uhh 'discussion' between my work colleague and 'other guy' that didn't end well, and then "Other Guy" followed saying something along the lines of "You will be hearing from me shortly." I said I'd be happy to have a civilised conversation with him, and a few hours later, I got another tweet:
Other Guy: Its time so remind some atheist why we do this. Some are apologist. Like @[colleague]. #Atheist reads the bible http://bit.ly/a0akHj
xwipeoutx: Ooh, nice. Exodus. Read sermon on the mount? Jesus' interpretation. Also, Eph 6:9.
Other Guy: how much do you enjoy cherry picking. Your doing it now.
xwipeoutx: I don't actually have headphones, I'm at work, so I'm going from the descriptions of the video
xwipeoutx: But twitter is not long enough to explain this in detail, in any case. I'll PM you my email if you're truly interested
Other Guy: I see. Here's another for when u have time http://bit.ly/9hcquU The Genealogy of Jesus
xwipeoutx: I'll respond to them tonight, when I get home, probably via a blog post so it's public.
I won't have time to respond fully to the genealogy video tonight - and frankly, I couldn't be bothered responding to it in depth at all, unless some more substance shows up. My quick response to that video is "...and?" Who's idea was "Jesus' sacred bloodline"? Who cares if Gentiles are in the mix? Did you see what happened AFTER David's little midnight frolic? How does the usual response fail to take into account the exact thing the usual response is addressing? I don't think Christians have anything to "apologise" for from the genealogy video...so on to the slavery one.
First up, I now realise how off base my response about the Sermon on the Mount and Ephesians (well, that bit was slightly relevant). My excuse is I was going from the video summary, not the video itself, and even then, I only gleaned. I got out of it "slavery", "eye for an eye" and "unborn children", not realising 2 of these were describing omissions, content. Whoops! My apologies, I can see how my response seemed like cherry picking, I was responding to slavery and "eye for an eye" as quickly as I could.
My method of response will be simple. I'll deal with the video in its time context, then deal with it in today's context, and then I'll deal with the over-arching topic of morality in the bible, and its applicability to proving/disproving God and God's morality.
The video deals with these passages: Ex 21:1-6, 20-21, 26-27
Ex 21:1-6. I don't have a problem with any of these, I don't really see why anyone would. As far as I know, Hebrews were the only one with a year of Jubilee - slaves can go free. Please correct me if I'm wrong on this. The parts regarding wives is solely to do with this, so if you think it unjust, keep that in mind - letting the slave's wife leave as well is more graceful than anything else at the time.
The term for "Wife" used in this passage isn't wife in the strict sense we know - we'd probably use something closer to "a woman" now. I'll presume for this sake that the passage DOES mean wife as we know it, because that's in the Other Guy's favour, but keep it in mind
So, the wife leaving with him is graceful, no arguments there. But giving him a wife just to take it away? Well, that seems harsh. My take on it is that, in slavery, the master would only give the slave a 'wife' for the sole purpose of bearing sons (and, less so, daughters) - and since the 'slave' is property (let's face it, back then, that's what they were considered), is this really surprising? There was a lot of things unjust about slavery in the day*, this potentially being one of them. You can't chalk that up to religion though - slavery was rampant almost everywhere. I'll reiterate here that it was far LESS harsh than slave rights anywhere else. Besides, it doesn't prohibit the master from sending them both (or all, in the case of a kid) away, if he so desires.
Next, if the slave really can't bear to leave the wife given to him*, the law gives him an opportunity to come back - albeit, for a price - slave for life, by choice. This is on equal footing with other slave purchases, with the added benefit of it being a choice. A tough choice, but a choice nonetheless. The animation depicted the Awl pretty gruesomely, and that's something I reject. I'd say it was through the earlobe, like a modern day piercing (with more crude equipment!) - a mark to say you're a slave for life. Again, equivalent to what was going on at the time - there was always some form of branding for slaves. Seeing a pattern here?
The "daughter" section was conveniently cut off before the part addressing the caring and rights of said daughter. Please, atheist evangelists - if you're going to quote the bible, don't cherry pick. We probably know it better than you, and besides, it's easy to check when chunks are missing*. The bit that was included - how is it any different to an arranged marriage? Remember, polygamy was in and widely practised then. Oh, right, the emotionally loaded animations that muddy the interpretation. Of course.
Now on to verses 20 and 21. In 20, the master being punished if the slave is killed; again, better than anything else at the time. In 21 (master not punished if the slave survives), it even rationalises it there - because it is his property. Property - that's what slaves were considered at the time. No other culture had any punishments for this at all, yet the Hebrews did.
Finally, if the slave loses an eye or tooth, they are set free. It heartily discourages beating - if you accidentally knock a tooth out (I'm sure a slave's tooth in 3000BC wasn't exactly strong), you've lost a lot of money. If nothing else, this would limit whipping to the torso area. Better than the surrounding, religion-free regions.
So in summary, most of the rules here are far better than the (lack of?) rules for slaves in other cultures. At this stage, the Jews would be very aware of slavery practices - they'd only just escaped as slaves from Egypt 7 chapters earlier. In any case, if you were going to be a slave, being a slave for the Hebrew was the way to go. It's temporary, and masters are encouraged to look after you. Find me another culture of the time that's the same, and I'll salute you.
Today, slavery is almost completely outlawed. Yes, there are areas where slavery is still practised, but I'm not sure that's relevant to us, because there's certainly not any that I come in to contact with. Why is slavery gone now? A chief driving force for it was Christian Abolishinists, at least for Europe. I don't know about other countries. Who knows, were it not for these Christians, we may not even find slavery that abominable - it could still be a fact of life. I said "could be" - it is, of course, unknowable if that is the case or not.
But despite that, what's the take on those Exodus passages today? The New Testament writings neither condone nor condemn slavery - but rather, put frameworks in place to ensure there's nothing inhumane going on there. Ephesians 6:5-9. This is not contrary to the Exodus teachings. If indeed that law is still applicable, the teachings in Ephesians only serve to strengthen them, making them by FAR the most humane slavery the world has seen. You do know what era this stuff was being written, right? It was pretty much the height of the Roman empire. Why not have a look at their treatment of slaves? No deity set their rules. Christian-owned slaves (again, the greek is closer to servants) are treated more like household servants; cared for - not threatened. There's not even any favouritism allowed! Find me a more humane slave system.
In Christianity, any New Testament interpretation generally trumps "Traditional" interpretations of the old testament - sermon on the mount, and Jesus' dealings with Pharisees are excellent examples of this. The new light cast on the old laws gives them strength that holds up to the world's even more refined moral views today. When interpreting Old Testament laws, we must read them in light of Jesus, his teachings and his character. To do anything less is simply lacking context, and I'd go as far as saying irresponsible
On Biblical Morality
So often, I see Atheists say "God did/allowed this bad thing in the bible. Therefore, God is bad." I can't believe how often this comes up, and it's just ridiculous - I honestly can't make any sense of it.
First, let it be known the Bible is being used here - atheists are using the bible as a basis for argument against God. In order to do this, the atheist cannot say "but the bible isn't true", or that throws his own argument out the window. He can't even say "God isn't real" for this argument, because the bible says He is, and, well, the whole argument is built around the assumption that the bible is true. Saying "no, I'm just these verses as an example, the rest isn't true" is surely a fallacy. So don't go all "oh my gosh, he's placing such faith in the bible, doesn't he know it's just a book, not true and not relevant?" because that doesn't make sense here. The book being true is an axiom of the argument put forth by the atheist.
In the bible, it says who God is. Loving. Powerful. Holy. Those 3 sum is up beautifully. Oh, and the bit about how He's the creator*.
The difference in being between God and us is so insanely crazy, that it's unimaginable. Read Job 40 and 41 for some scope on God's power and knowledge, as described in the bible. Can you even begin to comprehend His ways? And even if you can, and fully, what right do you have to question that anyway? He's the creator of everything, and the judge over everything! It's like me writing a program on a computer, and then it saying to me that perhaps I shouldn't have implemented something the way I did. It's ridiculous! Humans, and our pride and self-inflated image of ourselves thing we know better for ourselves than God does.
Look, if the bible is used for an argument, all of it must be - Christians get called out on "cherry picking" all the time, well, it's a 2 way street. In it, God is far far beyond our comprehension. It is not for us to decide what is moral and what isn't, because it's not our world - it's His. What is left for us is seeing HOW something there is moral - a task made a lot easier, since Jesus' revelations. When read in this light, it's amazing how often biblical teaching lines up with modern day morals.
1. One wonders how civilisation would have fared without slavery at all. We'll never know, but it's possible that it was necessary for the time. I'm not condoning it, just wondering.
2. One also wonders how many of the slaves even liked the wife they were assigned? How many would come back? Remember, the wife/children here is for the benefit of the master, not the slave.
3. The obvious omissions that atheists leave out when they're arguing these things is ... odd. Do you think we won't notice? Do you want to present a slanted view? Do you care about finding the truth, or are you just being a fundamentalist? This particular one couldn't have been accidental - the slavery passages were picked out from the chapter, and the rest were summarized. So it had been read numerous times.
4. Ahh, bible creation, another argument. It's not relevant here - the bible doesn't mention HOW, just THAT he did. If it makes you feel better, assume that God has a noodly appendage, and created it with that.