A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible
Hunc tu caveto.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Above: Woman with leprosy in Nepal

"Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and everyone that has an issue, and whoever has been defiled by the dead." In other words, abandon the sick to suffer and die alone. Shouldn't the Creator have just introduced rifampicin and dapsone, the drugs used today to effectively treat leprosy?

I probably hyped up God's crusade against lepers. That's actually the extent of it. But Numbers does continue on in true Leviticus fashion.

There's very little transitional material in the Bible, and in this chapter we jump from lepers to adultery - which is one of the accepted reasons to have an abortion. Yahweh, who is undoubtedly male, gives the Israelites a special magical ritual to discern who is an adulterer and who is not.

If a man suspects his wife is cheating, he approaches a priest. The priest gives her "bitter water" (Numbers 5:18). If she cheated on her husband, this bitter water will make her "thighs rot" and her "belly swell." If this happens, the woman is then excommunicated from the community. If nothing happens, well - I guess the man just has to throw his hands up in the air and say, "Oh, my bad!"

More than likely, this is actually a reference to abortion - a morning after pill.

The message to take from this is, obviously, if a woman becomes pregnant by cheating on her husband - by all means, abort it! And you know what? I have no problem with abortion (within the first trimester), but I do have a problem with this scenario. This is basically a priest conducting an abortion on the husband's whim, with the woman having no choice in the matter.

The whole procedure is called the "Law of Jealousies".

What about men? In this particular chapter, Yahweh is silent.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Above: an artist's depiction of Moses.

In the Book of Numbers, we start getting into the logistics of the Israelites' stay in the Sinai Desert.

Most scholars suspect their numbers to have been fudged, but the book is about how more than a million people (their census counted only males, which numbered 600,000) managed to live and wander about in the desert. But think about this, in the beginning of Exodus, the Israelites numbered 70, and in the course of 400 years, their population increased to well over a million people (based on a census of 600,000 males).

There are other censuses taken, like of all male children, or of all males 30 to 50 years old. These were done for different administrative purposes.

The tribe of the Levites, however, were not included in this census. They were the designated holy tribe who would supervise the building up and tearing down of the Tabernacle, and also see to its security, maintenance, and of course the teachings of Yahweh.

Remember Aaron's sons, the ones who God killed because they offered an unauthorized incense to Him? Well, Numbers Chapter 3 mentions them again, but it's basically a shortened version of the same story.

An interesting development in Chapter 4, God determines that Gershonite and Merari males, ages 30 to 50 years old shall do all the hard labor. The Gershonites and Merari are families within the Levite tribe, who had just been designated to oversee the Tabernacle.

Imagine being determined to do all the backbreaking hard labor of building up and tearing down the Tabernacle every day? They had to worry about special curtains, pillars, setting up the building and sacrificial altar correctly, covering certain holy items, building and rebuilding the fence around the Tabernacle, setting up offering plates, cleaning up any mess from sacrifices, etc.
Next time, God starts yet another crusade against - you guessed it - lepers!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Image from Christa Wimmers

I imagine that any reasonable and rational Israelite, after reading the last chapters of Leviticus, would have said something like, "Whoa God, what is up with you?!?" And of course, he would've been met by silence, because it wasn't really God who wrote this stuff, but the priests and Israelite elites.

The last chapters of Leviticus, 25 through 27, paint God as if he's a sociopathic control freak, with a tinge of multiple personality disorder, and paranoid delusion. In Chapter 25, God's kind of a good guy. In Chapter 26, he morphs into a monster. And finally, in Chapter 27, He calms down - a little bit, but gives some rather awkward bits of information regarding the cash value of human life.

As I said, in Chapter 25, God's a half-decent guy. He gives a little bit of advice on real estate, how to treat your slaves, how to purchase your brother as a slave, and he even says some nice, though ironic, things. God almost sounds like Thomas Jefferson when he said, ""Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

And like Thomas Jefferson, whom I admire, He was in the odd position of having to justify slavery.

Chapter 26 is where his personality sudden changes. He tells the Israelites, through the scribes who wrote this down, that if they follow his laws (stone nonbelievers, don't boil a kid in its mother's milk, don't eat crustaceans, etc.), then God will give them success. He promises to give them rain when rain is due, to be on their side when the Israelites go to war, to drive away "evil beasts", and to have bountiful harvests.


But if the Israelites don't do this, if they have the audacity to go against Him and His covenant, God lists all the punishments He will put upon them. They be forced to under such hardship that they will have to eat their kids (Leviticus 26:29), at least the ones left over after their enemies and animals get to them first.

While this is going on, God will appoint over the Israelites terror, consumption, the burning ague that will consume their eyes and cause sorrow of heart.

Oh yea, my favorite threat is that 10 women will cook my bread. Hey, as long as they're hot chicks that would be awesome. But even if they were humongous 500 pounders and ugly - how is that a punishment? The men who wrote Leviticus must really hate it when women congregate in groups. Yea, they can be loud and they giggle alot, and say weird girly things - but it would seem to me that 10 women cooking my bread would be the least of my worries.

In Chapter 27, God discusses the value of a human life in terms of cash value. Any healthy male 20 to 60 years old is worth 50 shekels. Women are worth 30 shekels. Males aged 5 to 20 are worth 20 shekels, and females in the same age range are worth 10. Under 5, males are 5 shekels and females are 3. Over 60, males are 15 shekels, and women are 10. Absent are fetuses, which are worth nothing in Leviticus.

But there you have it, folks. Men are worth more than women. And in the words of a bumper sticker I often see, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it."
Just kidding, I don't believe this stuff at all. In fact, re-reading the Bible is making me REALLY not believe any of this stuff even more than I didn't believe it before. Does that make sense? But I wonder if my religious friends believe, at the very least, that men are worth more shekels than women. Do you?

Woohoo! I'm done with Leviticus!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm just going to plow through 22 and 23. They cover subjects already discussed, with a few minor alterations. Basically, if you're a slave-owner, a priest, a priest's daughter or slave, and you're routinely sacrificing TONS of animals - you have nothing to worry about. If you're a leper, a guy with a "running issue", or had a wet dream - uh oh.

Chapter 24 is a slight change of pace. There's actually a descriptive story about a stoning. Some lady's half-Egyptian son gets into a fight with an Israelite and curses the Israelite's god. He probably said something like, "F*&% yo God, my God's waaaaay better."

God says, "You know what? This guy got me pissed off, and I order the entire community throw a bunch of heavy stones at him until he's a pile of mush and bone."

Maybe He didn't say it like that, but He basically told Moses, and Moses told the Israelites. Yahweh really does sound like a Roman god or goddess - quick to anger, jealous, and very moody.

A famous quote also comes out of Chapter 24: Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. The chapter suddenly jumps subject to justice. Isn't that ironic? They're talking about equal punishment here, RIGHT AFTER they killed a guy who said a few choice words against their schizophrenic invisible friend.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In Leviticus Chapter 20, God is concerned about the worship of Molech. Back when this was written, sometime around 1440-1400 BCE, the Yahweh cult was actually in competition with many different gods, one of which was Molech. As we will see, the Old Testament is a record of how the Yahwehists wrested power over the tribe and literally forced the Israelites to follow their god Yahweh, exclusively.

To be fair, Molech isn't exactly a good god to be worshipping. In its most extreme form, worshipping Molech required child sacrifice. Yahweh was a "step up" because he only required animal sacrifice (except for a few instances where there were human sacrifices), and Yahweh's laws were very strict and punishment was usually more than the crime itself.

Molech takes on various forms, a bull (like the Golden Calf), or even an owl (which is a more modern conception). But basically, they're symbols of the same deity.

God then proscribes a few more laws to follow. Yea, He's not very good at transitional material:

1. Kids that curse their parents shall be put to death.
2. Adulterers (and adulteresses) shall be put to death.
3. Men who have sex with their daughter-in-laws - both will be put to death.
4. Men who have sex with men, you too shall die. (Leviticus 20:13)
5. If a man has sex with a woman and her daughter - all of them shall be put to death.
6. Sex with animals - both the human AND the animal must die.
7. If a man sees a female family member's nakedness - he shall be cut off from his people.
8. Worse, if a man sees a female family member's period blood (the Bible calls it 'fountain'), BOTH shall be cut off from the people.
9. Anyone that practices magic should also be put to death.

This sounds familiar, doesn't it? It's because God already covered this in the previous chapters!!!

I skip ahead to Chapter 21, and it's the same. Yahweh repeats His concern about men shaving. And the only new thing is that God also admits that He hates disabled and/or different people, like retarded people, blind, dwarves, people with funny blemishes on their skin, or funny noses, men with damaged testicles, crooked backs, broken hands or feet, and on and on.

Now THAT'S petty!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Leviticus, Chapter 19 goes on to show how nutty the Israelites concept of Yahweh is. On the one hand He's threatening them with death for using idols, and on the other he's telling them to leave extra grapes out for travelers. He might as well tell them to pick cherries.
He also brings up a lot of stuff that He mentioned before, like in the 10 Commandments. He tells them don't use My name in vain, don't steal, don't lie, etc.

You'd think there would be a point where the Israelites would look up to God and say, "Hey buddy, you've said that before. Um, can we cover some new ground please? I mean, why is the sky blue?"
Of course, anyone who asked that would probably die immediately.

Back then, the Israelites believed the sky was blue because there was an infinite amount of water being held up behind an invisible wall called the firmament (see Genesis Chapter 1). Yahweh, being a Sumerian sky god, should've told these people what's up, literally what's up?

"No, the sky is blue because of light from the sun bouncing off of molecules in the atmosphere. And there's an infinite vacuum punctuated by humongous balls of nuclear power, of which the sun is just one of them."

If the Bible had something like that written down, scientists today would all be at least deists.

Well anyways, Chapter 19 is at the very least a nice change of pace from Chapter 18. But it still has its problems.

Another problem is that when the Israelites finally get to where they're going, they're supposed to plant fruit trees, BUT the fruit from trees that are less then 3 years old are "uncircumcised". What the hell?

And then it starts talking about magic and astrology, both are things that I think are bunk and so does Yahweh apparently. But should we put to death those who do try to practice things? I don't think so. I think laughing at them is sufficient enough.

God also has a problem with guys who round out the corners of their head or beards, presumably He's talking about haircuts.

Since there are people out there using the Bible for morality, they're going to have to pick and choose. A lot of the most devout followers of the Bible that I know are clean-shaven, but they'll readily point to a chapter like this one to say why astrology is evil. The truth is that everyone who follows Judaism or Christianity are cherry-pickers.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Leviticus, Chapter 18 is all about sex. And it's not just about regular old hetero-sexual male-female sex - Chapter 18 covers all the OTHER stuff - the taboo stuff. It lumps homosexuality right in there with bestiality and incest.

First on the list is seeing relatives naked. It doesn't say anything about sex, it says you can't "uncover their nekkedness." I support that, it would be kind of awkward to see Uncle Billy's willy or Aunt Gina's 'gina; but is it necessary to even write this down in the Holy Bible? This is common sense stuff that should be applied to all people in casual polite society. But yea, there's crazy, gross and disgusting people out there that God created, and I guess He thought it would be a good idea to remind them not to do what He apparently knew what they'd do anyway.

The reasoning behind not uncovering the nakedness of relatives is that they are all of the same flesh. How's that even a reason? It should've said that sex with relatives has a higher chance of creating retarded offspring, or that sex with relatives is a breach of trust, or even "That's disgusting, man."

Second of all, don't even LOOK at a menstruating woman -that's just disgusting! (18:19) Bestiality (sex with animals) is also covered in Chapter 18.

Out of the blue, there is a reference saying not to pass your offspring to the fires to Molech. Basically, don't sacrifice your kid to Molech (who is a Sumerian god).

And then finally, we get to the rallying cry of the religious right. Leviticus 18:22: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. "

That's one third of their party platform, which can be summed up as follows: "God, guns, and gays."

Take note that the religious right regularly break all those other laws (keeping slaves, killing a non-virgin on her wedding night, looking at menstruating women, etc.), but they sure like to focus on this one! That's just goes to show that following the Bible literally is impossible - we all pick and choose, no matter how fundamentalist we are.

In fact, I'd argue that fundamentalists are the worst because while they do their fair share of cherry-picking, they can't even justify the reasons to favor one verse over another. Liberal and moderate Christians and Jews are at least reasonable enough to recognize there's a problem, but they'll still believe (albeit in a wishy-washy way).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Christians tell us that God created people so imperfect that He blamed them for their imperfections, and therefore sent His Son down to be tortured and executed by these imperfect people, to make up for how imperfect they are and how imperfect they inevitably will be. It's crazy, but that's essentially what it's all about. Jesus is kind of like the Ultimate Scapegoat.

Leviticus Chapter 16 talks about the 'scapegoat', a ritual where all the sins of the tribe are placed on a goat and then the goat is taken out to the wilderness. I'm going to skip the ritual, as it seems pretty damn superstitious to me, and extremely uninteresting. That's my secret so far. In order to read the Bible, make sure you skip the parts that are boring.

Chapter 17 is just more regulation on sacrifices. These priests are not you average laissez faire capitalists; they want a complete monopoly. Chapter 17 is also significant because God says explicitly that it's the blood that atones for the sins in a sacrifice.

  • If a man kills an animal and DOESN'T bring it to the tabernacle as an offering, he shall be cut off from the people. Presumably, this is because the man was going to offer this to some other god.
  • Any person that eats blood will also be cut off from the people.
  • If you eat an animal that died of natural causes, or was torn apart by other animals; you'll be unclean until evening.
I'm going to stop here because I want Leviticus 18 to stand alone. That's where we get into some of the debate about homosexuality. Please keep in mind some of the arbitrary rules we've read about up to this point, and how random they are (like boiling a baby goat in its mother's milk).

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I'll be honest with you. I'm not sure what the beginning of Leviticus Chapter 15 is talking about, but I think they're talking about men's ejaculation. They call it the "running issue". One thing's for sure, they're not talking about jogging magazines.

They might be talking about some sort of gonorrhea, too. But most of the resources I've looked up say it is about ejaculating; particularly 'wet dreams'.

Basically, if a guy gets a little bit of jizz on himself during the night, the bed he laid on is unclean and anything he sits on until evening. And, if someone touches his bed, then THAT person is unclean, too! And by unclean, I don't think they mean physically; the implication is spiritual uncleanliness, or sinful. During normal sexual intercourse, both are considered unclean until evening.

The Israelites sure are anal with their superstitions! But the basic message is right, if you dig past all the unnecessary rituals. Guys or girls, if you get cum on you - wash it off. It is pretty damn gross to be walking around with cumstains on your pants and hands.
I'm not sure what kind of commentary I can add to this. In reality, we can argue that a person with semen on them is physically dirty, but are they spiritually dirty? I guess if you feel guilty for doing it, you are. And if someone is touched, or touches someone that has semen on them, are they dirty? I'm not sure if I want to delve to deep into this topic, so I'll stop. But I'd be interested in your comments.

Women, according to Leviticus, you are filthy! When you are menstruating, you are unclean during your period (seven days), AND for seven days after that! And if a man should have the audacity to have sex with a woman on her period, he too is unclean for seven days. After the eighth day AFTER the period, a woman must go to the local priest and have him sacrifice two small birds.

Chapter 15 covers some disgusting and unnecessary topics. I don't want to continue this discussion, but here's an interesting quote:

Leviticus 15:8 - "And if he that hath the issue spit upon him that is clean; then he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even."

Spit? Nah. They can't be talking about that. Can they?