Child sacrifice, nonsensical theology, and other questions Christians can't answer

Being a Christian is easy, as long as you ignore most of the Bible and don't actually bother trying to figure out how the theology works. Sam Harris recently teamed up with Steve Wells, creator of the Skeptics Annotated Bible (he's also annotated the Qur'an and the Book of Mormon) to develop The Scripture Project, which Harris intends to make the authoritative resource on the web for Biblical skeptics. This got me thinking about the kind of scriptures you see in the SAB, and how, when I was a Christian, no one ever really talked about them. Actually, no one talked about them at all.





Part I: The Biblical God is a tyrant

When I was a Christian, I didn't really know much about the Old Testament. Most of the OT scriptures referenced in sermons and on bumper stickers seem to be touchy-feely stuff like the Psalms. But when you stop cherry-picking the Old Testament and look at it objectively, it becomes a lot more difficult to rationalize when contrasted with any modern sense of morality or even contemporary Christianity. The genocide, slavery, misogyny and ritual human sacrifice commanded by God in the OT led me to view the scriptures as myths of a primitive tribal culture, not as an infallible holy book. The god that is portrayed in the OT is certainly not the feel-good, loving, merciful god I had been taught to believe in. He's a petty, woman-hating tyrant who commands his followers to commit the most atrocious acts against other people.

Last month I discussed some of these scriptures, particularly human sacrifice, so I won't rehash that here. But some new scriptures have been brought to my attention: namely, child sacrifice. Yes, the God of the Bible demands child sacrifice. Apparently this is not limited to the disturbing story of Jephthah; God wanted children sacrificed to him en masse. It's important to emphasize that just as with the slavery, genocide, and stoning women to death because they didn't bleed on their wedding night, these aren't acts in which God watches disparagingly at his flock as they run astray from his holy will; God specifically commands his people to do these things.

So, here are the scriptures. Discuss:

Exod 22:28-29 "You shall not delay your fulfillment and your flowing.
"You shall give me the firstborn of your sons.
"You shall do this to your ox and to your sheep: Seven days it will be with its mother. On the eighth day you shall give it to me."

Exod 34:19-20 Every first issue of the womb is Mine, from all your livestock that drop a male as firstling. . . . . . . And you must redeem every first-born among your sons.

Exod 13:1-2 YHWH said to Moses, "Consecrate to me all the first-born; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine."


I should note that some have suggested that these scriptures are to mean that children are to enter the priesthood. But the peculiar thing about that is that God commands the same thing of livestock. Were the first-born livestock supposed to enter the priesthood?


Part II: Your religion makes no sense

Aside from all the Old Testament tyranny, there's another elephant in the room with regard to Christian theology: it doesn't make any sense. I've been asking Christians for years to explain to me why God requires bloody ritual sacrifice as part of his covenant, and indeed what, exactly, Jesus dying has to do with God forgiving you of your sins. Not only have I not received an answer, but no Christian I've met has even attempted to answer that question. Whenever I've raised this important issue in debates, Christians just change the subject. As a friend of mine observed recently: if God is all-powerful, it requires no more effort on his part to simply forgive his flawed creations than it does not to forgive them. Ritual sacrifice makes no sense.

I've also repeatedly asked Christians the seemingly obvious question that if Jesus is God, to whom exactly Jesus was being sacrificed? Christians are forced to acknowledge the absurdity of their theology: not only did God cast humanity out of Eden, but he then determined the appropriate penalty for redemption: ritual sacrifice. He then paid the penalty himself by sacrificing himself to himself. Of course, his work is still not done – he is going to come back at some unspecified point and fix everything for real. Again, I've implored Christians to offer an explanation of this convoluted nonsense, and they either leave the discussion or change the subject.


Why do I care to point all this out? Times like this I like to remind people of all the divisive behavior done in the name of religion. Whether it's the foolishness of right-wing congresspeople holding "prayercasts" in which they ask God to strike down health care reform, the undue respect and leniency afforded to priests when they are accused of molesting children, the lead singer of Behemoth being arrested in Poland for insulting the Catholic church, the blasphemy laws in Ireland, the way religion inspires people to rally against equal rights for gays and reject stem-cell research, the way people on opposing sides in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict both believe with equal conviction that God has decreed the land as theirs, the push to teach creationism in public schools, the way religion creates rifts between in-groups and out-groups, all the way to the extreme – wars, genocide, terrorism, barbaric laws and the oppression of women's rights, religion serves as a reminder that it is not okay to believe something because it makes you feel good.

The very problem with religion is that it is a set of ridiculous claims that is shielded from criticism, mockery and skeptical inquiry solely because it is religion. When belief without evidence is celebrated as a virtue, people can decree any absurdity as absolute truth. When someone says "God told me so", how do you argue? We must accept what is true based on evidence alone.

Comments

  1. God is God, Jesus is His son...he didn't sacrifice himself to himself...2 different Gods...
    You must talk to a lot of stupid Christians...I could answer your questions, but I doubt you would like any of my answers. And Christian theology makes sense...it is basically be nice, don't kill people, don't steal...lying is bad, visit your parents...go out of your way to be nice to people, share your toys, trust your feelings...
    Why does everything have to be so hard. I do those things...I am practically a perfect darling...I don't lie cheat or steal, I am true to my husband, I take dinner to people who are struggling, that is Christianity...and maybe its Buddhism, maybe it's Judaism, but it is a good way to live. I am a good neighbor, I will put your garbage can back in your garage, and hope you are well if I don't see you for awhile. I will give you a cheery hello in the morning, and try and keep my kids out of your yard. Oh, and i have great kids...they play football and they don't drink, they don't use swear words and they eat dinner with their family. And they are great friends and good role models....every coach loves them, every teacher likes them and it makes sense.
    We can't explain love...you can't see love, or prove it, you can only feel it, and then act on it.
    You spend too much time being unpleasant...I am a Christian and I am happy...the bible has been translated about a million times, maybe some stuff has been left out, it isn't infalable..use your head...the world created in 6 days? Try this 6 creative periods....24 hours? who said that?
    We must accept what is true based on evidence alone? Such a sad empty statement...
    But there are lots of people hating Christians...it feels bad...I don't hate anyone. I avoid mean people, but I don't hate anyone.

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  2. I am all out of facepalms after that display of stupidity and credulity.

    Hey guess what? All those nice things you do? I do them to! OMG! In fact... atheists do nice things all the time! But we do it without the self-righteousness and guilt that you dimwits soak up by the gallon.

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