Thursday, February 16, 2012

More brilliant morals from the god of the bible. Deuteronomy: 22:23-24

Back when I was a fundamentalist I carefully studied the bible quite a bit.  You see, back then I took very seriously the command in 1 Peter 3:15 that states:
But sanctify the Lord God in you hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
You see, I felt as if I needed to be able to offer justification for everything I believed.  I was, for most of my time as a Christian, a literalist, that is to say I believed that the entire bible was scientifically, historical, and ethically accurate.  This belief served to keep me well in the fold of Christianity during my high school days, but once I got to college and started taking my beliefs more seriously I began reading the bible every day.  I began evangelizing to people, leading bible studies, etc.

I found passages that troubled me often but I usually could find ways of rationalizing them.  However, now and then I found passages which seemed wrong in one of the three ways I mentioned with no good answer to them.  My inability to mesh my faith with reality or morality was one of the primary things that lead me away from Christianity. 

So with that in mind, for your viewing pleasure I would like to present one of the many passages I came across during that time of my life which I spent years in a vain attempt to find an explanation that didn't make my skin crawl.
Deuteronomy: 22:23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;  
22:24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
So, to be clear about what is going on here, we have a women who is engaged and she and another man have sex.  If she cries out the man gets stoned but if she doesn't cry out the she gets stoned too.  To be clear this is not the kind of stoned that leaves you with a desire for brownies, this is the getting your head bludgeoned in with large rocks until you die kind of stoned.

The explanation that is most often offered here is that the sex was consensual, otherwise she would have cried out.  I see two problems with this, one I can easily see a circumstance where a woman is raped and stays silent, drugged, knocked out, threatened with a weapon, or just plain scared, yet there is no consideration for those things in this law.

The second, much larger problem, is that this apologetic is basically arguing that it is reasonable to make consensual sex a capital crime.  Even when I was a Christian and thought premarital sex was wrong the notion that someone should be killed for it seemed incredibly offensive to me.

Just so no one can claim I am making up this apologetic I found a link to the section of the Matthew Henry Commentary that speaks about this.  Here is the pertinent section from the page in question:
And it shall be presumed that she consented if it were done in the city, or in any place where, had she cried out, help might speedily have come in to prevent the injury offered her. Qui tacet, consentire videtur--Silence implies consent.
If you think that is the worst of it, there are some extremely twisted attempt to justify this particular passage  It didn't take me long to find this one out there on the net which was very similar to things some Christians said to me years ago.
This law exists to protect everyone involved, and it actually demonstrates a rather impressive knowledge of human behavior and human nature. The key words here are "because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city," under the assumption that if she went along with it willingly, it wasn't actually rape. First, it protects the man from false accusations--if a malicious woman makes an accusation like that, she's on the hook too. And second, it protects the woman. If she knows that if she plays along, she's guilty under the law, then he can't use the best-known of intimidation tactics employed by rapists, "play along or I'll kill you!" It gives her a strong incentive to struggle, fight him off, and scream for help, which makes it less likely that she will actually end up being raped. All in all, this demonstrates the brilliance of God's law, not the cruelty and immorality of it.
First off, creating a situation where women are afraid to report rape does NOT qualify as brilliance, secondly setting up a situation where the woman has to fight back to have any chance of living no matter the circumstances of the assault is outright repugnant.  Rape is about control, setting up a situation where the victim has even less control is the exact opposite of brilliant thinking.  I have yet to hear an apologetic for this passage from a Christian that does not appeal to some kind of misogynistic or anti-sex nonsense.

In concussion this passage is pretty damn immoral in my book.  I am always amazed at Christians who complain about the misogyny in the Koran and ignore all the stuff right in the middle of their own holy book.


  1. I notice you didn't mention the next two verses ...

    Deuteronomy 22
    25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, 27 for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her.

  2. Yes, I didn't mention that one...nor did i mention the one later in the chapter that requires an betrothed women to marry her rapist.

    I admit this passage isn't so bad, so does the bible need a pat on the back for occasionally getting things right occasionally? I know enough about theology to know that inerrancy means ALL of the bible not just the parts one likes. Though I don't know you personally well enough to know if you are believe in inerrancy, many Christians don't. However, morality isn't like math, one good passage doesn't cancel out the bad on just before it.

    1. Just pointing out your selection bias, that's all.

      Now, Dylan, ask yourself: why was the rapist executed if the woman was engaged but not executed if she wasn't?

      Reason: when she had her virginity stolen from her, she would have been seen as undesirable for marriage back then. So, if the woman was not engaged, the rapist was kept around for the woman’s sake. The rapist would have to provide for the victim his whole life.

      In Exodus 22:16-17, the father could refuse to give his daughter in marriage after a man 'seduced' an unengaged virgin. The seducer would still have to pay the full bride price to the father, though. This means the victimized woman was not required to marry the victimizer.

      Dylan, you tell me that morality isn't like math ... well, then, what is it like? Here's what I mean: I can look at the Mosaic Law and see that YHWH condemned rape and protected victims. The Law demonstrates his holy character. But you, as an atheist, have no real basis to condemn any one's version of morality.

      Furthermore, your worldview provides you no resources to objectively deem rape and other such things as truly wrong. Materialism can not establish moral duties, obligations, or "oughts".

  3. I've studied philosophy and atheists can believe in God too. Just not your 3-O Human God. So to say that an atheist has no moral value is invalid. As a truth seeker, you can't read one thing and just ignore all the other things in existence because it doesn't fit your mental mapping structure. What Dylan is saying is true. Because there are holes and illogical information in the English published versions of the bible it makes the book irrelevant. Especially, since evolution is probable by means of how cultures change and adaptation occurs. If you were to live by the bible you would not be accessing the internet, because the internet did not exist when the bible literature was written. Adaptation of human kind means morals change, things in one culture are accepted differently than our own.

  4. One, I (and about a thousand other atheists out there) have already explained where our views of morality come from. I am not having that debate with you again because you have proven time and again to not listen to or acknowledge anything I say. (I was being polite until you dredged up this shit again) I do have said basis to condemn others morality, and have argued quite effectively that it is YOU who have no such basis, and this entire exchange is proof of that. You say you believe in moral absolutes but then your apologetic appeals to cultural relativism to justify this law.

    2nd your apologetic is still appealing to the same misogynistic crap that I objected to in the post.

    Forcing a women to marry her rapist is just about the cruelest thing I can think off. Ask a few women what they think about this rule.

    So here is my idea to fix this problem, how about we build a society that DOESN'T treat marriage as an exchange of property between two men, and doesn't treat women as chattel whose only value is their sexual purity and how many babies they can pop out.

    Oh wait..... us "evil" secular humanists HAVE done that. Isn't it strange that those of us who supposedly have no morals have come up with more egalitarian solutions to these problems than your supposedly perfect god.

    (Edited to remove some of the snark, I still stand by what I said but would rather stick to the pertinent facts instead of editorializing.)

  5. I was thinking further about your statements and though I would add something.

    No matter how often you repeat the mantra about atheists lacking an objective basis for morality it will not make it more true.

    I, and many other athiests, do believe in objective ethics, and have repetadly told you that our objective basis comes from science and rationality. Which are, by the way, far more consistent that your basis. This is something exlempified in the passages I noted as well as the exchange we just had here.

    You argue for objective ethics but appeal to cultural relativism in the same paragraph to justfy the passages in question. I am guessing you are so indoctrinated by your religion you don't even realize the contradiction in what you are doing.

    Much the same as our "discussions" about athiests lack of objective morality. You have already decided that the only valid way to get an objective moral is through divine command, ignoring the fact that this is not anywhere close to the definition of objective.

    So let me give you a bit of objective morality. In the united states there have been quite a few cases where judges over seeing a divorce has refused custody to one parent because that parent was an atheist. Now, I will stipulate that if you are correct and hell awaits those who do not believe this might be a reasonable thing to do, but if you are wrong then irreprerable harm has been done to both the parent and the child in these cases. These judges have done something immoral.

    Consideirng you are a teacher of this bigoted idea that atheists have no morals you are at least partially responsible for building a society where judges make these sorts of choices.

    In the end it comes back to evidence, and if you can't prove that your god exists with real tangible evidence then we have a real problem, you and other christians out there have chosen to make choices that affect us here in the real world based upon your unproven opinions.

    You can talk about philosophy all you want but I am talking about real people, real people who have been hurt in tangible ways by the beliefs you advocate for so you are damn right I get angry when you say I have no morals, because where I stand promulgating a belief for which there is no evidence and then making choices that affect other peoples lives based upon that belief is pretty immoral.

    So if you want to discuss the lack of moralty among athiest you must first demonstrate there is a god...if you can't do that we are done here.

  6. Dylan -

    I notice you are often quick to say, "we are done here" or "don't talk to me about topic X" or "you can't talk to me until you do X" ... do you really want to have an honest debate? Or possibly even a friendly discussion?

    I don't know if you know much about me but I am good friends with a few prominent local atheists. We get along fine, all the while going back and forth.

    I see it is much more difficult with you, Dylan. Why? Name-calling, swearing, and anger flow readily from your keyboard. It doesn't have to be this way! We can disagree in a cordial manner. This doesn't mean we ignore our differences or that we automatically watch cartoons together, but isn't there a better way?

    I think there is ...


    PS - if you want to hear more about this or hear a discussion about this, I invite you to an event we are holding this First Friday (March 2nd @8-9:30pm). It will be myself and two atheist friends of mine talking about this very thing.

  7. "do you really want to have an honest debate? Or possibly even a friendly discussion?"

    The question is do you want those things? I set these rules because you consistently refuse to address any points I have made. Your current post is just another example of this, rather than addressing ANYTHING I said you just engaging in tone trolling.

    Maybe you get along fine with those other atheists, I don't know and don't care, you have insulted me repeatedly here and treated me with disrespect, refused to engage, flat out ignored things I have said. Maybe other atheists are OK with it when you call them immoral, I do not put up with it.

    Christians seem to have the problem quite often where they think they can say anything they want and everyone else has to defer to them or treat them with respect. You have done nothing to earn my respect here.

    By the way, I was not the least bit angry when I posted my previous post, I don't know what you interpreted as anger. However, there are plenty of good reason for atheists to be angry with organized religion. I suggest you youtube Greta Christinea's talk about why atheists are so angry.

    As far as swearing, I will do it anytime I damn well please :) This isn't a church, its my blog and I can say shit, fuck, or anything else I want.

    I know as a Christian you probably don't approve of this language but I don't see anything wrong with it and I wont censor myself for you.

    As far as name calling I can't recall calling you any names. I'd happily apologize for that if you can provide examples.

    Personally I don't think there is much hope for friendship with fundamentalist Christians. In my experience they will use guilt, intimidation, political force, and just about anything else to bring people into their beliefs. Do you hold out hope for friendship with fundamentalist Muslims? If not then perhaps you can see why I feel that way about Christians, the most I generally hope for is an uneasy truce.

    Now, if you really want to have a friendly discussion then please address the points I made in my previous post.

    You can start by addressing this one: You argue for objective ethics but appeal to cultural relativism in the same paragraph to justfy the passages in question.

    Or you can do exactly as I expect you to, which is to squirm out of answering difficult questions like you have been doing for months.

  8. Dylan,

    The event went very well. I wish you could have come. Perhaps you can check out some of the audio or video (it is on my blog, among other places).

    In your last comment you mentioned that you hold little hope of evangelicals being friends with you and asked me if I "hold out hop for friendship with fundamentalist Muslims"? It is ironic you brought that up, as I can gladly answer "yes". I have half a dozen friends who are Wahabist Muslims. True, I had to go out my way to befriend them. But now, by the grace of God, I have their numbers, e-mails and speak to a few of them almost weekly. In fact, one man from Sudan recently invited to come to his work during his down time so we can speak at length. These are people who have told me some shocking things to my face and yet I can love and respect them. I can also learn from them.

    Ultimately, I think any analogy with ultra traditional Islam and evangelical Christianity is flawed, as there is no New Testament command to behead those who diss Jesus, apostasize, or convert others. Still, I am friends with these folks and it has been beneficial. Dylan, I can not force you to have respectful dialogue or to be "friends", obviously. But others are willing and it seems that would be a better thing for society than stereotyping everyone who believes different things.

    As far as your question on Old Testament ethics and cultural norms, let me quote from a brief article by Walter Kaiser: "the fact that these commands were specific in a specific context [does] not exclude the possibility that they were the expression of universal principles. A universal rule is simply one that applies to every case of a certain class, no matter how particular and specific that class may be. As John Goldingay observed: 'It is possible to overreact as a result of an awareness that cultural change is real, and to forget that cultural continuity is also real. God remains consistent and the conditions of life today are not totally discontinuous with those of the biblical cultures.'"

    This is introductory to the topic but helpful nonetheless.

    -"Approaches to Old Testament Interpretation" - John Goldingay

  9. First, I thank you for actually answering one of my questions. This is the first time you have honestly answered something I asked. You usually just devolve into "atheists have no objective morals so I don't have to answer you." At least that is my opinion of your interactions here.

    Now, exactly where have I stereotyped anyone? I have only responded to the things you said. If you don't want me to treat you like a stereotype then don't behave like one. :) I don't know you personally, you are probably a decent person despite your religious inclinations but I can only respond to what you say to me, and when you say something as gregariously offensive as
    "its OK to make women marry their rapist because they aren't worth anything without their virginity" and not expect me to call you out on that? I am sure you are much nicer to women in real life, which is just proof you, like most Christians, are more moral than the god you say you worship.

    Yet your religion requires that you say such silly things, otherwise you would have to face the utter depravity of your religions moral teachings. Some of us refused to bury our heads and rationalize this stuff.

    As far as your answer goes, I read many similar explanations when I was a believer, and I will tell you that my opinion is that it is nothing but vacuous double speak, relegating the word "objective" to whatever happens to fit with the current culture is exactly what you say you object to in the atheist world view. If you can't see that your explanation was the perfect definition of cultural relativism there is nothing more to say on the topic.

    Yours is the same logic that I object to when certain post modernist groups try to excuse things like female circumcision because the culture they are in says it's OK.

  10. As an aside, I never said I thought of you as an enemy.

    I am sarcastic and blunt, and if you want to dialog with me then you will have accept those things about me. They can be useful qualities quite often. You will always know where you stand with me.

    I don't think that Atheists have much hope of getting along with fundamentalist Christians not because they are all horrible people but because our so many of our goals differ greatly from one another.

    As and example, I imagine you would love to have creationism taught in public schools, and I think that would be a travesty that would surely destroy American science education.

    One of us is wrong (it's you) and there isn't any way I can see to compromise on this. This doesn't mean I hate you...hell my mom is a creationist and despite years of biology classes think I am crazy to accept evolutionary biology, I love my mom, but it doesn't change the fact that she supports something I find insane.

    You mistake my tendency to call things as I see them with anger or ire. I don't hate you, though you do frustrate the hell out of me when you refuse to answer direct questions for months at a time.