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Biblical Morality (or Religious Morality)

Posted Jan 10, '13 at 12:26am

BigP08

BigP08

1,431 posts

This may or may not turn into another classic "Theism vs Atheism" thread, and I kind of expect that but I was hoping to keep it on a very specific topic with respect to Christianity. If anyone has another religion whose morality they'd like to discuss that'd be fine too. In general, I was hoping this could focus less on the "is God real" aspect of our discussion, which seems to be the driving force in most religious threads, and specifically on the "if this religion's god is real, is he/it moral?"
The topic is pretty general, but I'll try to start us off with some basic scenarios.
As many of us atheists may be ready to present, there are a lot of passages in the Bible about slavery (click here for specifics). I was wondering how this can be justified if these stories are part of the religion. The passages get pretty specific about how you can beat your slaves as long as they don't die and how they are your property. I find this immoral.
The second one that comes to mind is human sacrifice. Off the top of my head three stories come to mind. The first one, Abraham and Isaac, isn't really human sacrifice as God tells Abraham "just kidding" at the last second. Still, I find it odd that he is revered for his willingness to kill his own son in deference to his god. The second one, is the story of Jeptathah sacrificing his daughter to God since God let him win the battle, details here. We're talking about a God that let Jeptathah win the battle in exchange for Jeptathah sacrificing the first thing that came out of his house, and when it was his daughter, God should've come down and said "Hey, don't kill her, we're even. I don't accept human sacrifice." But he didn't. The third example I have is the most obvious one, Jesus Christ (no link necessary). God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus for repentence for our sins, who is supposedly (maybe not in all religions) considered fully human and fully divine. If this is the case, God accepted the sacrifice of someone fully human instead of just forgiving us without a sacrifice.
The last thing I want to mention is the idea of Hell. Eternal punishment for finite crime is immoral, in my opinion. If you believe God sends anybody to Hell, then he is immoral. Even Hitler doesn't deserve to be tortured forever because he would have to commit an infinite amount of crimes.

You by no means have to talk about every issue and add any issue you want to (even if Christians know an issue in their religion and want to bring it up to counter it, that's welcome). Final point, if the mods think this thread is too similar to another thread or just think this discussion should continue in the main one, I understand. But I was hoping the specific point of this thread could be morality of religions (I started off with the one I know best, my former one) and not whether or not to believe they are true.

 

Posted Jan 10, '13 at 12:43am

ImTheMostManlyMan

ImTheMostManlyMan

2,809 posts

Now this I could get more into.

When the bible talks about slavery and how to treat a slave it's not saying that it's good (though there might be something about that in the Old Testament about the Canaanites since by weren't wiped out) it's guidelines for if you should have slaves. In other words in an Ancient Rome, they had slaves and the bible bad guidelines on how you should treat them should you have them, not saying that if you are elected president or something to ahead and allow slavery. And in a sense if there was slavery then it would be good for a Christian to have one because he would save it from what would likely otherwise be much worse and try to convert said slave. I believe when it says beat it's just a generic term for discipline.

He reason he was going to sacrifice him is because he had faith in God that he wouldn't tell him to do anything wrong and because he was promised a great nation through his son and believed that God would raise him from the dead.

I'm not as familiar with this one but from what I remember (if I'm correct) it was a mistake on his part for making the promise in the first place because he was risking killing someone.

The final one can be answered by me (paraphrasing) a verse.
"Sin cannot be forgiven without the shedding of blood"
And Jesus blood was shed, not like animal offerings, this one was the ultimate sacrifice from a perfect sinless person sufficient for he forgiveness of sins.

 

Posted Jan 10, '13 at 12:52am

Kyouzou

Kyouzou

4,753 posts

You're looking at it through a distortion though, I would say that in respect to its creation many of the rules that the bible lays out are moral.

As products of the 21st Century we're judging the creation of a society that we never have, nor will we ever experience. As such, it could be assumed that our judgment would fail in the face of one culture and be completely accurate with respect to another culture.

There is also the idea that we were created in God's image, were this the case, we would assume that not only do the two entities share a physical resemblance but humanity also embodies certain innate qualities of God. In that sense, how does our society culture reflect that image as compared to those societies that were in existence 3000 years ago or even those that existed before and after that time. Now if you are operating on the basis that humanity has always mirrored God's image, then you would also have to assume that the nature of God in the metaphysical sense is in constant flux. As a result, you can't apply the rules of biblical morality to a different culture because the people they applied to and the God that they represented simply don't exist anymore.

 

Posted Jan 10, '13 at 1:17am

BigP08

BigP08

1,431 posts

Hey, thanks for a quick response MostManlyMan.

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 NAB)
This is the passage I was referring to about the beating. it specifically mentions that only if the slave dies are they to be punished. Otherwise, they can beat the slave with a rod since the slave is his property. If I'm getting your main point, it seems to be, in simpler terms, God allowed slavery so he could soften it? If that's the case, passages like this give valid reason for me to disagree.

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.  But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.

(Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)
I mean this politely, but this passage disgusts me. Immoral treatment of women is a theme I didn't really feel like getting into, but I don't like that women become sex slaves in addition to regular slaves. What a hideous life to be born into.
These two are also in the link I provided as well as a few others, but these are the ones I particularly had a problem with, at least moreso than others. I was also wondering if you knew why Jesus didn't try to outgrow the need for slavery when he got his followers. I was curious why he didn't speak out against it, at least to the extent that he did on divorce (he gave you this law because you were like children etc).

He reason he was going to sacrifice him is because he had faith in God that he wouldn't tell him to do anything wrong and because he was promised a great nation through his son and believed that God would raise him from the dead.

I don't know you hardly at all, except from a few debates, but I'm going to guess that you're a decent person with generally decent ideals. If this is the case, I think that if you heard a voice tell you to kill your son, you would refuse because you would want to be 100% sure it was the right thing to do for your son. I would want to be absolutely positive that it was my God before I would go and kill me son. And I don't understand why God didn't ask him to do something that was difficult but still moral, like climb a mountain or fight a bear or something. I know the Abraham story is a common one Christians get, so I only threw it in there to spark discussion.

I'm not as familiar with this one but from what I remember (if I'm correct) it was a mistake on his part for making the promise in the first place because he was risking killing someone.

I don't blame you for not knowing that one. It's in Judges 11:29-40 (I won't quote the whole thing but my link has the story too). And I'm in agreement that Jeptathah made a mistake saying he'd sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house if he won the battle. I mean, who else would come out of his house other than a dear relative? A robber? But my issue is that God didn't intervene. This guy truly believed that God wanted him to sacrifice his daughter. I'm sure you would say that God wouldn't want him to sacrifice his daughter. Therefore, God should've given Jeptathah the same thing he gave Abraham ("Don't sacrifice your children for me!"), or maybe let him lose the battle or found a way.

The final one can be answered by me (paraphrasing) a verse.
"Sin cannot be forgiven without the shedding of blood"
And Jesus blood was shed, not like animal offerings, this one was the ultimate sacrifice from a perfect sinless person sufficient for he forgiveness of sins.

But we're talking about the God that made the laws of the universe, so I don't understand why he decided that the only way to forgive people was to torture and crucify somebody else that didn't do anything wrong. I find that logic immoral.

Just for clarification, do you believe in an all-powerful, omniscient god? If you do, then I think he could have easily avoided all the problems I mentioned.

 

Posted Jan 10, '13 at 1:26am

EmperorPalpatine

EmperorPalpatine

4,971 posts

and specifically on the "if this religion's god is real, is he/it moral?"

If a person is a strong believer in Divine Command Theory (God says it's good = it's good, God says it's bad = it's bad), then God is always considered moral, regardless of personal opinions.

slavery

I'm fine with people agreeing to mild service bondage for a limited time to pay off debts, kind of like community service instead of jail or fines. It's involuntary, harsh, permanent bondage for generations [Lev 25:45-46] that I have a problem with.

I was wondering how this can be justified if these stories are part of the religion.

It's supposed to represent mankind's slave-master relationship with God, and that punishments for disobedience are harsh.

Jeptathah sacrificing his daughter

The only argument I've heard against that one is the Hebrew word used for 'and' in "whoever comes forth from the doors... shall be the Lord's, and I will offer him up for a burnt offering" could also be translated as 'or', meaning she was sent to serve God by working in a temple and remaining a virgin for life.

it was a mistake on his part for making the promise in the first place because he was risking killing someone.

And God didn't correct the mistake or refuse/reject/denounce the sacrifice because...?

The last thing I want to mention is the idea of Hell. Eternal punishment

Not all Christians believe in the endless punishment. The original concept of 'hell' was derived She'ol, meaning "grave" or "pit" or "where the dead are" and it applied to everyone regardless of life choices. It was considered to be a place of stillness and darkness, essentially just being dead. There was no torment. There was no salvation from it. That was all there was.

 

Posted Jan 10, '13 at 1:31am

BigP08

BigP08

1,431 posts

You're looking at it through a distortion though, I would say that in respect to its creation many of the rules that the bible lays out are moral.

Interesting idea. Still, I think these might contradict the idea that the bibles' rules were moral even in its own time. Kill witches? God knew witches weren't real. Kill children? There is no moral context where I think this is a good thing.
Outside of murder, there's a passage that says if a man rapes a woman then he is required to marry her. Marry your rapist and spend the rest of your life with him? Always evil.

As products of the 21st Century we're judging the creation of a society that we never have, nor will we ever experience. As such, it could be assumed that our judgment would fail in the face of one culture and be completely accurate with respect to another culture.

I think we can only take this assumption only so far. That's why I won't talk about murdering criminals, since that might fall into your context. But if this god ever thought that mass murder and human sacrifice and infinite punishment were ok, then he was a bad person, even if he didn't think so.

There is also the idea that we were created in God's image, were this the case, we would assume that not only do the two entities share a physical resemblance but humanity also embodies certain innate qualities of God. In that sense, how does our society culture reflect that image as compared to those societies that were in existence 3000 years ago or even those that existed before and after that time. Now if you are operating on the basis that humanity has always mirrored God's image, then you would also have to assume that the nature of God in the metaphysical sense is in constant flux. As a result, you can't apply the rules of biblical morality to a different culture because the people they applied to and the God that they represented simply don't exist anymore.

Interesting, and something I thought about when I was a Christian. But still, I think that on general principle God should think of how he would want to be treated and, since we are in his image, know that we would feel the same way if we are beaten to near-death, *****, or murdered as children.

meaning "grave" or "pit" or "where the dead are" and it applied to everyone regardless of life choices. It was considered to be a place of stillness and darkness, essentially just being dead. There was no torment. There was no salvation from it. That was all there was.

Thank you, I should have specified not all Christians think this. Still, they believe that someone else is getting an eternal reward, meaning that the lack of that eternal reward is, in and of itself, an eternal punishment for a finite crime.

I'm fine with people agreeing to mild service bondage for a limited time to pay off debts, kind of like community service instead of jail or fines. It's involuntary, harsh, permanent bondage for generations [Lev 25:45-46] that I have a problem with.

Most Christians tend to head there and say it's not like American slavery, but I have a problem specifically with the way slavery is described.

It's supposed to represent mankind's slave-master relationship with God, and that punishments for disobedience are harsh.

I agree with you. I also find it immoral.

The only argument I've heard against that one is the Hebrew word used for 'and' in "whoever comes forth from the doors... shall be the Lord's, and I will offer him up for a burnt offering" could also be translated as 'or', meaning she was sent to serve God by working in a temple and remaining a virgin for life.

I haven't heard that one, but I don't know if that softens the issue for me. The idea is that he told God "I will give you another human being, whoever walks out my door". I think owning other human beings is immoral.

 

Posted Jan 10, '13 at 1:34am

BigP08

BigP08

1,431 posts

If a person is a strong believer in Divine Command Theory (God says it's good = it's good, God says it's bad = it's bad), then God is always considered moral, regardless of personal opinions.

Oh, forgot this. Still, if that's the case, then whoever believes this must also be subervient to the idea that if God tells you that you are immoral unless you **** at least one infant every day, you must do so to be moral.

 

Posted Jan 10, '13 at 1:52am

EmperorPalpatine

EmperorPalpatine

4,971 posts

Kill witches? God knew witches weren't real.

Some argue that the sorcerers/diviners/psychics were really being aided by demons for their powers. Even if that wasn't the case and they had no assistance, they were usurping God's authority by claiming to have knowledge/power that only He had.

then whoever believes this must also be subervient to the idea that if God tells you that you are immoral unless you **** at least one infant every day, you must do so to be moral.

And they are. That's the scary part.

 

Posted Jan 10, '13 at 2:30am

Jacen96

Jacen96

2,147 posts

Marry your rapist and spend the rest of your life with him? Always evil.

The rapist would be forced to take care of the victim, making sure she is provided for, sounds like a punishment to me.

There is also the idea that we were created in God's image, were this the case, we would assume that not only do the two entities share a physical resemblance but humanity also embodies certain innate qualities of God. In that sense, how does our society culture reflect that image as compared to those societies that were in existence 3000 years ago or even those that existed before and after that time. Now if you are operating on the basis that humanity has always mirrored God's image, then you would also have to assume that the nature of God in the metaphysical sense is in constant flux. As a result, you can't apply the rules of biblical morality to a different culture because the people they applied to and the God that they represented simply don't exist anymore.

Being made in his image doesn't mean we are alike, the image we are made in is the presence of the immortal soul.

~~~Darth Caedus

 

Posted Jan 10, '13 at 2:44am

EmperorPalpatine

EmperorPalpatine

4,971 posts

the image we are made in is the presence of the immortal soul.

Got a source? Why would they use the same word as the one used to mean visually, such as in His laws against carved images? Why wouldn't the words say "spiritual likeness"?

The rapist would be forced to take care of the victim, making sure she is provided for, sounds like a punishment to me.

Darn, they get to have their way with the person they wanted to have their way with. Such a penalty. In those days, women were considered property, and you could do just about anything you wanted to do with your property.

 
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