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Why People Justify Immorality and Make Excuses for Bad Behavior
It’s increasingly difficult for me to either accept or ignore the fact that theists (in this particular case Christians) are able to follow logic just fine – until it gets to a certain point, and then they’re simply unwilling or unable to follow it any further. I find myself going around and around on certain points without making any headway, even when both of us have made what seemed like significant progress up to that point.
I also find it difficult to rationalize how Christians can be skeptical of most other aspects in their lives, whether it’s about another religion’s beliefs, or other fantastic claims made by other people – they have no problem admitting that they think the claims are silly, but they are not able to see how that presents a logical error in their own thought process when it comes to their own beliefs. How do personal beliefs escape the foundations of logic? How can skepticism be present and accounted for but not in terms of personal faith? How can you admit that certain things defy reason or probability, yet still believe in them?
It’s also disturbing to encounter some people recently who seem to have this errant opinion that no one who lacks a belief in god can possibly have a fundamental morality. They believe that their morals come from a holy book or a preacher or their own personal faith and find it impossible to accept that an atheist or agnostic could be moral. I find it impossible to understand how someone can claim the Bible as the ultimate moral guideline for not only their life – but the lives of everyone else on earth throughout history up to the present. I find it bordering on abuse to give the Bible in its entirety to children and tell them that it’s the “good” book. And I find the excuses that many believers give for some of the Bible’s teaching to be absolutely ridiculous – and against their own beliefs. When you point that out to them, however, you’re in danger of being told that you simply don’t understand because you don’t believe in it. In my case, however, I used to. Then I decided to use my brain, and I couldn’t explain certain things away anymore.
Specific Equation for Biblical Immorality:
Within my discussions, I’ve uncovered a series of questions that seem to lead people along a particular path, but when you get to a certain point, you encounter a roadblock that is nearly always insurmountable. I’ve only gotten past this barrier once or twice, and I’ve discussed these issues with dozens and dozens of people ranging from fundamentalist to the more-progressive episcopal. The funny thing is that none of them have actually given me the same answer in comparison to their other believers – yet all their beliefs are based upon the same book. How can a book commonly believed to be the inspired word of god inspire so much contention among its followers? If you were an all-knowing, all-powerful deity, wouldn’t you think that you’d know better than to be so ambiguous? There’s not a Bible 2.0 that clarifies some of these positions. This is all there is – yet the believers can’t even agree, so how are they supposed to convince anyone else? Isn’t that the ultimate goal – to win every soul in the world for Christ? My questions are predetermined to the equation and are listed below, followed by the answers I’ve usually been given by Christians of multiple denominations.
Question 1: Do you believe that the Bible was inspired by god?
Question 2: Do you believe that the Bible is infallible?
Question 3: Do you believe that God is all-knowing, all-powerful and in all time?
Question 4: Does God change?
Question 5: Can you think of any circumstance in which owning another human being is moral? -or- is slavery moral or immoral?
Answer: no. It’s immoral.
Slavery is Immoral (x) + God (via the Bible as predetermined above) endorses slavery = God is immoral.
Usually at this point, the conversation goes in one of two ways, and it’s almost predictable exactly what the Christian will say in order to overcome the obvious cognitive dissonance within their own beliefs. Never mind the fact that anyone who is attempting to justify slavery or excuse it away on behalf of their deity is immoral, period.
God does not endorse slavery
Answer: “However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them onto your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way” Leviticus 25:44-46
“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he were single when he became your slave, and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave , then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever. Exodus 21:2-6
“When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property” Exodus 21:20-21
God did not have any compunction about dictating things that people were not allowed to do, such as the 10 commandments where it is clearly stated “thou shalt not…” If slavery is immoral, as you claim that it is, and God endorses it and dictates laws that describe who you can own, who you can’t own and how badly they can be beaten, that God is not moral.
That was in the Old Testament, and those laws were changed when Jesus came to earth.
Answer: Oh really? There are a few points to make in response to this kind of blanket statement.
a) If God is all-knowing, all-powerful and in all time as you previously claimed, why make laws that would then be changed when he sent his son to earth as a human sacrifice back to himself. Why create such a flawed system? If God does not change and God endorsed slavery in the Old Testament, then it stands to reason (reason being the imperative word) that he would still endorse it to this day. Additionally, Jesus himself said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17
b) If you’re going to chuck out the entirety of the Old Testament, you not only abolish the majority of your case against homosexuality as a sin worthy of death, but you also get rid of all the prophecies that you claim establish Jesus as the Messiah as well as the 10 commandments. You cannot say that the Old Testament is invalid, yet still use it to defend your position. Not to mention you stole the Old Testament from the Jewish faith – and Jesus himself WAS a Jew. Without the Old Testament, you have no foundation to rest the New Testament upon, and if the Old Testament was truly out as you claim, it would not be referenced repeatedly to back up the claims of Jesus in the New Testament by the gospel writers, Paul and more.
c) It’s not just the Old Testament that condones and endorses slavery.
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” Ephesians 6:5
“Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them” 1 Timothy 6:1-2
And, in the words of Jesus himself (allegedly): “The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty he refused to do it. But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given” Luke 12:47-48
It’s also important to point out that Christian slave owners were not advised or taught to set their slaves free. Rather, Christian SLAVES were told to respect their masters even if they were fellow Christians – and that their religious beliefs should not be an excuse for disrespect. Clearly the Bible has not changed its stance on slavery between the Testaments.
(This one is particularly sickening) When the Bible mentions slavery, it doesn’t mean the type of slavery you’re thinking of in North America. It was referring to indentured servitude.
First of all, you’re just completely wrong. Going back to the verses I listed above, the Bible was VERY clear about who could be enslaved. You were allowed to own people from other tribes that resided within your reach. It was only OTHER JEWS that could be considered indentured servants in order to repay a debt, and that could only be enforced for a period of 6 years. Additionally, however, God was kind enough to provide a loophole for even that. If you gave your indentured servant(slave) a wife and he didn’t want to go free without her, or they had children and he wanted to stay with his children – you were able to accept his offer of eternal slavery graciously, pierce his ear – AND THEN YOU WOULD OWN HIM FOREVER.
When the Bible discusses how you can beat your slaves and to what severity, it sounds EXACTLY like the slavery we’ve read about in North America. You’ve taken foreigners that happened to be on your land (the land that you TOOK from them, incidentally) and enslaved them. You can beat them whenever you like – as long as they don’t die within two days. If they die AFTER the two day waiting period, you’re good. If they are just severely injured and don’t die at all, you’re good as well – after all, they’re your PROPERTY.
Well that was a difference in culture. Things have changed since then.
If the Bible is only culturally relevant in certain scenarios, who decides what laws were due to culture, and which laws should still be followed? How do you believe that any of it still applies? This argument also does nothing to cut down the fundamental truth that slavery is immoral, god endorses it and that makes god immoral. The fact of the matter is that the ONLY reason you consider this to be a cultural difference that no longer applies is that in order to survive, Christianity was forced to evolve and separate itself from a lot of its horrific past. Christianity simply could not survive the age of enlightenment and reason if it still clung to its ideals about slavery and continued the inquisitional age forward. The slave owners in the confederate south claimed that slavery was their right dictated by god and the abolitionists were the ones that were the ones going against God’s word. Technically speaking, as difficult as it may be to hear, they were right. That doesn’t make slavery moral. That makes the Bible immoral, cruel and barbaric. It’s a 2000+ year old book that is NOT the foundation for morals as society knows them today.
Well God’s ways are different from our ways. Some things we’re just not going to be able to understand until we get to heaven and he knows best.
So you’re okay with slavery being enacted again, since you want to follow the letter of God’s law? Additionally, I would argue that any moral code that dictates that people are going to be held accountable for its following when they have repeatedly demonstrated that they are incapable of understanding it is inherently immoral to begin with. To go back to the verse that I quoted from Jesus, he’s advocating that people that didn’t know they were doing anything wrong should only be punished lightly – but punished nonetheless. How can you possibly justify punishing someone who doesn’t know that what they’re doing is wrong? In modern society, we treat people who are mentally ill differently than we treat criminals. They don’t have to stand trial, in a lot of cases – if they do stand trial, they are often declared not guilty by reason of insanity. They’re not given the death penalty. They’re not shoved into a prison cell in general population with all the other criminals. They’re put in a mental institution where they can receive treatment, medicine and observation. Justice dictates that the only way someone can be held accountable for their actions is if they are mentally competent enough to understand them.
While it’s rare to have the conversation continue all the way up to this point, it has been known to happen on rare occasions. At this point, you see an almost visible line go up behind the eyes of the Christian that they are simply unwilling to cross. This is called cognitive dissonance. Things are beginning to crumble – even if they’re not willing to admit it. Some people are able to move past this kind of conversation and pretend that it never happened and never give it a second thought. Some people have a nagging doubt start in the back of their minds that they’re never quite able to shake. Others simply start applying logic and skepticism to their own faith (like I did). Regardless of the outcome, the goal is not to force anyone away from faith. It’s to start an open dialogue where some of the problems in blind faith can be examined in depth, to open the eyes of people who have chosen ignorance over intelligence. It’s to apply rationality to every aspect of life – including religion. In the end, it’s about understanding morals. As soon as I realized that I as a person was more moral than the god I was raised to believe in, I stopped believing in him. I’ve never looked back since.
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The King James Version of the Bible presented from a skeptic's point of view.
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A web-site which preaches Atheism by exposing the many evil crimes in the Bible committed by God and his followers.