25 Mar 2012

Uncomfortable Laws from the Old Testament

Religious 122 Comments

It would be easy enough for me to dwell on the goodness of Jesus and wax eloquently on how much better the world would be, if more of us followed His example. However, that would seem to skirt the tough issues, so let me deal with a particular command from the Old Testament that I see in the comments here and on Facebook (when people want to ridicule Christianity). Deuteronomy 22: 28-29 says:

28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[c] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

This is a particularly troubling passage right now, in light of an awful story involving a Moroccan girl who committed suicide when finding herself in just this predicament.

Before I try to reconcile this with my belief in the Bible–including its claims that the God who issued this rule is infinitely good–let me acknowledge that this really is troubling to me. So it’s not that I’m saying, “What’s the big deal here?” I don’t want to make light of these situations by any means.

I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: I literally came to my faith in God through Jesus, in at least two senses. First, as an atheist I thought I could best make sense out of history by hypothesizing that there really was a guy named Jesus, who really believed he was the prophesied Jewish Messiah, and that he really did go around healing people through the power of suggestion. (I don’t remember if I thought he “came back from the dead,” before I realized that some type of God existed. That whole period was pretty fluid for me and I can’t remember the precise order of events, but for sure I thought Jesus existed and committed “miracles” that could be rationally explained, before I believed in God.)

However, there is another sense in which my faith in the Biblical God came through Jesus. It was only because I trusted the man who issued all of the gorgeous and wise teachings in the gospels, that I entertained the notion that the God depicted in the Old Testament could be good. I knew Jesus was a far better man and had a more developed moral sense than I did, but the God of the Old Testament had seemed fickle and malevolent at times. Yet Jesus clearly says that this person is not only good, but perfect. So that really made me think.

So when I try to make sense of that Deuteronomy passage, here are some reactions:

(1) I don’t really know. This is the honest answer. I’ve explained several times and in different ways why I think there is a God, and I believe that Jesus was His human incarnation. I also believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. So given those views and all they imply, it has to be the case that it was just for God to issue the rules in Deuteronomy, even though many of them admittedly sound quite draconian and some even seem evil. As many of my atheist critics point out, it is presumptuous of any of us to discuss what motivates an omnipotent and omniscient being. So the real answer is, I don’t really know.

(2) But that’s no fun. Let’s try. The first thing is that you should read the whole chapter to put it into context. You’ll see that there are all sorts of rules, most of which sound fine, if perhaps a bit odd. There are other rules regarding sex, and although they are very harsh, they’re actually fairly equal in their treatment of the two sexes. E.g. if something would cause a woman to die because of her unchaste behavior, the guy dies too (whereas you might have expected the woman to die but not the male adulterer).

(3) Continuing with the above, it is clear that the point of the rule is actually to protect the woman. That sounds crazy to modern ears, but that’s because in our society, a woman’s future wouldn’t be ruined to the same degree by being raped as it would have been, back then. (Again, in saying that I’m not minimizing how traumatic/shaming/etc. it is today. My point is, it was way worse back then, when women didn’t have a lot of career options and men would not want a non-virgin for a bride.) There’s not really a great analogy available, but the rule might be something like this: “If a man cuts off another man’s arms, so that he cannot earn a living, then the criminal must take in the victim into his own household, and care for him until he dies of old age.” Now on the one hand, that sounds disgusting–why the heck would I want to live with a guy who cut my arms off?! But in a society where an armless guy is dead, you can see why that might not have been such a terrible rule.

(4) I actually have Jesus Himself saying something like this in a different context. When asked about divorce, on one occasion Jesus says the only reason Moses allowed men to divorce their wives was because “of the hardness of your hearts,” and then explains that this was never what God originally intended when He created the institution of marriage.

(5) One obvious complaint with rationalizations such as the one I just gave, is to accuse me of moral relativism. “Oh, so your omnipotent God of perfect justice, has evolving standards of righteousness over time? Huh, how convenient. Of course, this is just what we’d expect if God were an invention of humans, whose ‘eternal’ precepts changed with cultural norms.”

Right, I get why an atheist would say that, but I can just as well say this: God has standards of perfection. No matter what, we humans can never live up to them. So, dealing with us as we are, God issues rules that are the best for us, at the time they are applicable.

Look, in economics when I was teaching undergrads, I would say things all the time that weren’t quite right. In other words, I would get a concept or a viewpoint across, using an argument that was actually invalid, or at the very least I was offering a “proof” of my conclusion without actually supplying all the steps.

For a while this troubled me, but I didn’t know how else to teach the kids. If I actually tried to do it properly, I would have lost most of them and they would have remained in their state of ignorance.

My brother (6 years younger) was in a mathematics doctoral program, and he had to teach undergrads in calculus classes. So I asked him if he did the same thing, and he said yes. In other words, even in the most “objective” and logical discipline possible–mathematics itself–he was telling me he actually taught “proofs” and other techniques (for taking integrals etc.) to the kids, that weren’t really rigorous. His justification, of course, was the same as mine: The kids wouldn’t even know what he was talking about if he tried to explain the subtle little thing you had to worry about when proving why L’Hopital’s Rule works (or whatever).

So I think there is something analogous with God as He teaches us morality. For those of you with kids, think of how you raised them. When they were little, you didn’t have philosophical discussions about right and wrong. No, I’m guessing you told them flat out that hitting the other kid at the playground was wrong, that it was nice to share with siblings, etc. And you probably were “mean” and “angry” when they did things wrong. But as they got older, you seemed to mellow out and tried to reason with them more, appealing to their growing moral sense and so forth. (You also probably mellowed out because you finally caught back up on your sleep.)

That’s how I view God interacting with humans. The Ten Commandments were very explicit, and mostly told you what not to do. Yet when Jesus was asked the greatest commandment, He said to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and added that the second greatest was to love your neighbor as yourself. Note, however, that Jesus didn’t invent these two concepts to crystallize the individual commands from the Old Testament. No, those two commandments were themselves issued by the “mean” God much earlier (here and here).

122 Responses to “Uncomfortable Laws from the Old Testament”

  1. Anonymouse says:

    If Rothbard were god, he would probably say, “All relations between humans are to be voluntary. Thou shalt not initiate force against one’s fellow.”

    Now what, pray tell, would be wrong with that?

    • Jesse Forgione says:

      It wouldn’t work. How could you use that to control all the weak-minded idiots crying out for someone to tell them what to do?

      • Anonymouse says:

        Well, that would be the basic commandment, and there could be a whole book explaining the implications. In any case, it would be a less unjust criterion for determining who goes to hell (infinite punishment for a finite transgression is still outrageously condemnably disproportionate, though).

  2. Anonymouse says:

    “This is a particularly troubling passage right now, in light of an awful story involving a Moroccan girl who committed suicide when finding herself in just this predicament.”

    I agree with you here, but later in the post you attempt to explain this away with reference to the fact that you used to teach things “all the time that weren’t quite right” to undergrads. Even accepting the legitimacy of your teaching methods, how does that make the story of the Moroccan girl any less troubling?

    • Tom says:

      In all honesty, why should we feel sorry for a girl who refused to live by god’s teachings? After all, we know that rape victims must marry their rapist. The holy book commands it of us.

      • rayray says:

        Actually, the order is placed upon the man.

        • Ken B says:

          Because her obedience is taken as given and seen as no bar.

  3. Swazi says:

    Murphy, was this post necessary? I provided another Hebrew translation earlier that uses another word for rape – there is no singularly defined word for rape in Hebrew to be found in the passage. Do your own research before you write silly blog posts like this.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Yes’m massah.

      • Anon says:

        Bob, is it true that you haven’t written about Krugman’s Playboy interview because of your extremist religious beliefs?

        Do you not want to visit the site or something? I could copy and paste it for you if you want.

        This seems very odd. I’m wondering if something changed/happened.

      • Swazi says:

        Ouch.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Swazi,

      Even if the word is “seduction”, the point of bringing up the passage is not to condone rape, but what the woman is forced to do after whatever happened.

      Instead of hastily trying to apologize for a bible passage against criticism, try to actually understand the criticism next time.

      • Swazi says:

        LOL, when you first brought up the passage, all you said was

        “This is one reason among MANY on why I will not raise my children as bible believers”

        and nothing more.

        And now we have Murphy comparing the passage to the story of a Moroccan girl forced to marry an actual rapist. What is the world coming to?

        • Major_Freedom says:

          LOL, when you first brought up the passage, all you said was

          “This is one reason among MANY on why I will not raise my children as bible believers”

          and nothing more.

          Which is precisely why it was silly for you to go off apologizing for the passage before you found out exactly what the criticism was about.

          At any rate, the Hebrew translation you cited shows very clearly that it is rape and not “seduction.”

          The “damsel” referred to in Deuteronomy 22:25-29 was raped.

          Notice in verse 25 the terms “take hold of her” is used to refer to rape. In verse 27, we see that the damsel “cried out” and “there was none to save her.” In verse 28, the same “take hold of her” is used, which of course signifies rape, and in verse 29 we see that the man has to pay the damsel’s father and marry her.

          http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0522.htm

          You’re not reading the Hebrew translation correctly.

          • Swazi says:

            Major Freedom,

            You stated

            “Which is precisely why it was silly for you to go off apologizing for the passage before you found out exactly what the criticism was about.”

            Again, you merely threw out a verse that many at first glance would find offensive. You were the one who failed to present any meaningful criticism, not to mention any consideration for the historical context of the passage. I was merely clearing up any misconceptions for the readers of the comment section on this blog, not responding to your absent criticisms.

            To respond to your second point, you are still misinterpreting the passage. Note that verse 28 reads:

            “And they be found”

            The word “they” connotes mutual culpability – a consensual act has taken place.

            I also remember reading that the words used for “rape” (or rather, “take hold of”) were interchanged between the passages; for verse 28, the Hebrew word does not in fact imply force. So there is no parallel meaning between the two uses of “take hold of”. I’ll get a link in my next response.

            • Ken B says:

              You must be kidding.
              “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.
              (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 ESV)
              Found here means discovered; ie witnesses.
              Here is the NIV
              If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered,29 he shall pay her father fifty shekelst of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

  4. Tom says:

    I respect your opinion, but I don’t know how you can defend all of the passages in the bible. What about those “perfect teachings” that tell slave owners its moral and just to beat their slaves? How in the world can a loving god tell his children that its OK to enslave each other????

    Seriously, how can owning, beating, and raping slaves be compatible with “love your neighbor as yourself”?

    “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result,but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.” Exodus 21:20-21

    “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 was 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

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Tom, you’ve sent a bunch of angry letters to the Ron Paul campaign right? I mean, he goes on and on about how great the Constitution is, because it limits the bad things that people can do. But holy cow, do you see all the crazy stuff the Constitution allows? These Ron Paul people are sickos.

      • Anonymouse says:

        “These Ron Paul people are sickos”

        Well, they’re certainly not divine, if that’s what you’re implying…

      • Tom says:

        Rather than write about the constitution, why not write about the bible?

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Now you’re talking!

        To be fair though, Ron Paul believes individual sovereignty overrules the laws of the Constitution, both descriptively and morally. Do you believe that about the Bible? If you can show how following the bible to a “T” can get us closer to individual ownership, the way reducing the state to actually obeying the Constitution does that, then Tom’s ire would perhaps be misplaced, since he would no longer be able to consider the bible a threat to his individual ownership.

  5. Futurity says:

    The Hebrew word used for rape in Deuteronomy 22: 28-29 does not have connotation of force, nor it implies that forced was used. The same Hebrew word is used in other contexts: someone playing a musical instrument(Gen 4:21), using a sickle(Jer. 50:16) or capturing a city(several times).
    In this passage the meaning of this word is seduction.

    There is a word in Hebrew that indicates force and rape and it is used in 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. “

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Futurity, I don’t understand why they translated it the way they did then. In that same chapter, we have a translation for consensual and for non-consensual sex. Are you saying there is something in-between (in the Hebrew) that they translated simply as “rape” for v. 28-29? Do you get what I’m asking?

      • Futurity says:

        There are several English translations of this passage:
        NIV[1]: “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered,”

        ESV[2]: “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found,”

        ASV[3]: “If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, that is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; ”

        Some translations are better some are worse. Notice that worse translations(NIV, ESV), imply in English that the same word was used in Deuteronomy 22: 25 and 22:28(NIV: rape. ESV: seize), yet we know that different words were used in Hebrew with different connotations.
        In contrast ASV, KJV translated: Deuteronomy 22: 25 force Deuteronomy 22: 28 lay hold on.

        In Deuteronomy 22:23 and Deuteronomy 22:25 we see difference between consensual and non-consensual sex.
        The non-consensual sex is when the woman cries out/screams. When the woman does not scream, it is assumed that she consented.

        [1] http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+22%3A28-29&version=NIV
        [2] http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+22%3A28-29&version=ESV
        [3] http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy%2022:28-29&version=ASV

      • Ken B says:

        In the ESV, which is a highly respected modern translation we get a less forceful term but still not seduction http://www.esvbible.org/Deuteronomy+22/

        Comparing 25 and 28 the big difference is whether she is betrothed or not. If so, he dies, if not he marries her and she is not punished. That does not seem like it fits seduction: a betrothed woman would be a betrayer, so would be punished if at fault. It’s pretty clear the meaning of all this is ‘you broke it you bought it’. And ‘it’ has no say.

  6. AC says:

    You could have these torturous (literally) interpretations, or you could use your own response, “Of course, this is just what we’d expect if God were an invention of humans, whose ‘eternal’ precepts changed with cultural norms.” Which of them “makes sense of history”? I do commend your attempt to reconcile this with common-sense morality that your God doesn’t seem to have.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      AC if the only things we had to consider were this one passage, then yes I wouldn’t believe it. I explained in this very post why I am (for other reasons) compelled to really consider this passage and others like it, and not simply dismiss it as ancient voodoo.

  7. Tzadik says:

    What about when God actively encouraged genocide, and punished the Israelites when they failed to kill every last man, woman, and child, and slaughter every beast? That doesn’t seem like dealing with your children as appropriate for their level of maturity. That seems like teaching your children that it’s ok and good to hit other kids, and if they don’t hit other kids you’re going to afflict them with plagues.

    Furthermore, why couldn’t God have written something like, “Look guys, I know you’re morally immature and so I’m going to have your rape victims marry your rapists because, believe it or not, that really is the best way to handle that situation given how immoral you guys are, but really, rape is a terrible, terrible crime and if only you guys weren’t so obsessed with virginity we could punish rapists as they deserve without forcing their victims into a repugnant relationship with them.” You’d think he could try to guide people onto the path towards his ultimate morality. He makes no efforts toward that at all, and it’s no good to say that’s exactly what he was doing with Jesus because, really, three thousand years before a moral update? And the Old Testament really is the absolute best he could have done in terms of showing people the true morality?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Tzadik wrote: He makes no efforts toward that at all…

      You mean besides the “love your neighbor as yourself” and the 10 Commandments, which I explicitly discussed in this post?

      • Tzadik says:

        Yeah, I knew as soon as I wrote that you were going to say that. My bad. Still, explicit commandment of genocide and punishment for mercy.

      • Ken B says:

        Bob is right here. God makes lots of such efforts. That’s the problem. Many of the efforts are appalling. Some are inconsistent. Most come with a good dose of smiting or gloating or hatemongering. You can say a lot of bad things about god’s rules, but the one thing you CANNOT say is that there aren’t a lot of them.

    • John G. says:

      Bob, as Tzadik points out (and as you acknowledge), there are lots of disconnects between the loving N.T. Jesus and the at-times murderous, blood-thirsty O.T. Yahweh and his rules.

      If you read/skim the first six chapters of this book, you will see a plausible explanation for the disconnect between the O.T. and N.T.:
      http://www.iamthewitness.com/books/Douglas.Reed/Douglas.Reed_The.Controversy.of.Zion.pdf

      If you find Reed’s thesis compelling — as I do — you may want to explore Christian Marcionism, which takes the N.T. without the O.T.:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcionism

    • John G. says:

      Do you accept the thesis that the O.T. is weaved together from four different sources from markedly different times, sometimes in the same book (e.g., two different creation stories in Genesis)?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_hypothesis
      http://www.amazon.com/Wrote-Bible-Richard-Elliott-Friedman/dp/0060630353/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332788638&sr=8-1

      Do you accept that there may be whole creations in the O.T.?
      http://individual.utoronto.ca/mfkolarcik/jesuit/herzog.html#auth

      Back on Marcionism, if you scroll down halfway, you see good examples of the clear disconnects between the O.T. and N.T. (do not be put off by the ‘Gnostic’ website; Marcion was not a Gnostic):
      http://www.gnosis.org/library/marcion/antithes.htm

      • Bob Murphy says:

        John G., I haven’t looked at your links yet, but on the surface of it, how can you endorse the NT but not the OT? Jesus clearly endorses what we now call the OT. In fact, that’s why I endorse it, because I take my cue from my Lord.

        • Ken B says:

          Bob: I take this as evidence you have not read any of what I said about the nature of the sources and the other noncanonical gospels. I even explicitly told you the same thing!
          John G can build a good case (aside from the fact there is no god) because other early christians, now called heretics by the churches, believed the same thing. There were a LOT of different opinions in the early years of christianity.
          Plus John G is right about the composition of the pentateuch — this has been known for about a century. I recommend the book he linked highly.

        • John G. says:

          All of the Gospels were written well after the death of Jesus. None were written by Apostles; Peter’s letters, in high Greek, were not likely written by a fisherman, and were likely written by a learned fellow Christian or a secretary to Peter. The earliest N.T. writings are from Paul, in the early 60s, I vaguely remember.

          It is quite possible that the well-after-the-fact Gospels (except Luke) and other books (except Paul’s letters) were written to tie Jesus to the O.T., to maintain Jewish control (or at least influence) over the N.T. and the emerging Christian church.

          • Ken B says:

            This is getting technical! Yes, there is a legitimate argument that some sources were written to ‘judaize’ the tales, and an argument that some were written to do the opposite. There is much about the logic of the faith that suggests Marcion’s idea, or the gnostics’ ideas too. The sources tell us about the various faith communities at the time, which were wildly divergent and often odd, and must be read in that light. You will find few takers for the obvious fact here.

          • Xon says:

            “All of the Gospels were written well after the death of Jesus. None were written by Apostles; Peter’s letters, in high Greek, were not likely written by a fisherman, and were likely written by a learned fellow Christian or a secretary to Peter. The earliest N.T. writings are from Paul, in the early 60s, I vaguely remember.”

            Says whom? I’m not being purely rhetorical here. I’m familiar with a lot of higher critical writings. If we trot out the actual arguments, though, most of them are hardly conclusive.

            My cherry-picked example from when I was doing NT studies in a galaxy far, far away comes from 2 Peter. One reason we “know” that 2 Peter wasn’t written by Peter, but by a later writer well after Peter, is because 2 Peter uses the phrase “Babylon” to refer to Rome. And we “know” that nobody used “Babylon” for Rome until at least AD 120 or so. So, see, 2 Peter is late!

            Of course, there are always lots of arguments like this, not just one little one like the one I just quoted. It’s supposed to be a cumulative case, but it’s almost always circular, or based upon skeptical presuppositions. In other words, coming into it with the idea that the Gospels are *not* broadly accurate historical accounts from people who knew Jesus directly, as they claim to be, scholars then set about finding “evidence” that they are not. It’s convincing if you are already an unbeliever, and unconvincing if you are a believer.

            • John G. says:

              Xon, I am just pulling statements from the introductory paragraphs for Peter from my ‘New American Bible, St. Joseph Edition,’ which is the result of 25 years of work, and is commonly called the ‘Catholic version of the Bible.’

              I do not read Greek, and rely upon others to identify potential inconsistencies. I trust the explanatory/introductory language in my Catholic Bible, as it squares with what I have read elsewhere.

              By way of background, I am a believer in Christ, and find the words of Paul to be particularly edifying.

            • Ken B says:

              Xon is confused about what circular means. Arguments that confirm an initial assertion are not circular unless they rely on that initial assertion. Example: I suspect peter 2 is late. I find in Peter 2 a usage which is overwhelmingly likely to be an anachronism. This is confirmatory evidence. If I argued, ” ‘babylon’ must be an anachronism because P2 is late” than THAT would be circular. No-one argues that.
              Example. I suspect the Hitler diaries are fakes. I find the phrase ‘Iron Curtain’ in the book, referring to what will happen to Europe if the nazis lose. I say, that’s an anachronism, so the diary is a fake. I did not use the fakery as a premise, so my argument is sound not circular.

              • Xon says:

                I missed this, and here it’s a new Sunday already.

                But I am not confused as to what is circular and what is not. Ken B misconstructed the argument as I was representing it (so that’s a misrepresentation of what I’m sure he takes to be my misrepresentation, if you’re following along at home).

                In the case of 2 Peter, whether the word in question really IS an anachronism is something nobody with any certainty can know. We have scant textual evidence from the ancient world to even sniff at drawing a conclusion about whether a particular usage of a phrase arose in, say, AD 60 or AD 120.

                When someone says that 2 Peter’s use of “Babylon” to refer to Rome is anachronistic, the traditionalist comeback is “How do you know that?” The answer “because we have no record of it every being used that way before AD 120″ is woefully inadequate. That would be a good argument for Hitler’s use of “iron curtain,” because Hitler’s alleged writing is in an era when we have millions of documents that we can use to track changes in usage of words over time. But determining whether a word was used a certain way in 60 vs. 120 AD? That’s insane.

                The traditionalist will just shrug (rightly) and say “Maybe this verse right here in 2 Peter is evidence of the word being used before 120AD, rather than evidence that the book wasn’t written until after 120AD.” And what’s the answer the liberal textual critic will give to that? Whatever it is, it will be circular or else they will drop their claim.

  8. Anonymouse says:

    “Before I try to reconcile this with my belief in the Bible–including its claims that the God who issued this rule is infinitely good–let me acknowledge that this really is troubling to me.”

    This is another example of the difference between Christianity and Austrian economics. I doubt there is anything about Austrian economics that is “really troubling” to you. Am I wrong?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I doubt there is anything about Austrian economics that is “really troubling” to you. Am I wrong?

      Yes, you are wrong.

      • Anonymouse says:

        Fair enough, although I would suspect that Austrian texts, on the whole, present less of a problem for you than Judeo-Christian ones. I would also draw your attention to the difference between your response to what troubles you about Christianity and your response to what troubles you about Austrianity.

        With Christianity your assumption is always that YOU have missed something, whereas with Austrian economics you are free to apply your powers of reason to correct the mistakes that have been made, even by “gods” such as Mises and Rothbard.

        Here’s a great example of you applying rigorous logic:

        “We start again with Mises, who claims, ‘The very act of gratifying a desire implies that gratification at the present instant is preferred to that at a later instant’ (1966, p. 484). This observation is true, but it overlooks the fact that there could have been a preceding interval of delayed gratification, throughout which the (in that interval) future satisfaction had been preferred.”

        It’s inspiring to see you call out a great economist on their “BS”, but if Jesus had made the same mistake you wouldn’t have called him out on it. Instead, you would have tried to come up with some sort of analogy, or you would have claimed that Jesus meant it in a metaphorical sense, or that people at the time couldn’t handle a monetary theory of interest, etc. etc.

        In other words, you would have done anything within your power to avoid coming to the obvious conclusion that Jesus messed up. Your reason for treating God differently from Mises is that “God is perfect, so of course there’s GOT to be an explanation!”

        The problem is that you’ve put the conclusion before the horse. God’s rules, proclamations, and behavior must constitute the EVIDENCE for divinity. If the evidence doesn’t add up, then you’ve really and truly got nothing except for a few analogies about parenthood.

        • Ken B says:

          “I would suspect that Austrian texts, on the whole, present less of a problem for you than Judeo-Christian ones.”

          The main difference being Austrian texts present reasoning. Bob does not rely on the historical accuracy of the austrian texts, he follows and accepts or rejects their reasoning. It wouldn’t matter at all if the texts changed wildly but presented the same reasoning.

          • Ken B says:

            To expand. If Bob discover ‘von Mises’ was a myth, an economic Bourbaki, the beard for a syndicate of blackmailed economists, or a pseudonym rented out to a series of scribes *he would not care* as the logic stands on its own. But that does NOT apply to his coclusion about how he can trust the old testament god because one superb person says he should. If moral insights from various sources are simple ascribed to a legendary Jesus then Bob’s argument falls apart.

  9. Bill Woolsey says:

    I think by far the most plausble explanation is that many of the places where the Bible says, “God told Moses to say….” are false.

    If you would like to color those as true, how about God gave Moses the 10 commandments, and then when Moses pointed out that this is hardly enough, God said, well, your wife is from some herding tribe, if you really think my people need a bunch of detailed regulations, just copy their rules as long as they are consistent with the big 10.

    You know, remember the two I gave you, and you said, “what, aren’t there more? And then I said, OK, here are 10?”

    Leaving aside what I really think, the rape rule should be understood in the context of “normal” societies where marriages are arranged by families. In such a context, no one has a right to choose sex partners, so rape isn’t a violation of that a right. Sex is a matter of duty (and perhaps pleasure) between spouses. Spouses are arranged between families.

    By the way, aultery is not about a someone breaking a marriage convenant. It is about stealing someone else’s spouse.

    Now, _I_ believe that marriage should be a contract between two individuals–husband and wife. I also think that employment should be a matter of contract as well. It could be that God has different priorities, and is not of the view that it is essential to reform society for each person and mankind to fulfill its role in creation.

    In that context, I think it is a mistake to assume the that Law of Moses should be understood as God’s blueprint for utopia.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Now, _I_ believe that marriage should be a contract between two individuals–husband and wife.

      Would _YOU_ use force to stop two men or two women from getting married? Would you kill them as per Lev 20:13?

      If not, your ethics are the same as those who reject the bible on this score, which then leads to the question of what exactly is the intellectual foundation for such a belief in the first place. Pure bigotry? Upbringing? Fear? All of the above?

  10. Anonymouse says:

    “…as an atheist I thought I could best make sense out of history by hypothesizing that there really was a guy named Jesus, who really believed he was the prophesied Jewish Messiah, and that he really did go around healing people through the power of suggestion.”

    I don’t think you’ve shared this argument with us yet (aside from half of a Mencken quote). Why do you think it is more probable that Jesus existed than that he is a fictional character (like Zeus or Vishnu)?

    “… for sure I thought Jesus existed and committed ‘miracles’ that could be rationally explained, before I believed in God.”

    This is interesting to me, because it shows that the analytical errors you made as an atheist were the preconditions that allowed for your eventual conversion. You were an atheist in the same sense as someone who thinks that Zeus was a guy that lived on a mountain and perhaps had a machine that could harness the power of static electricity.

    By accepting the vast majority of Christianity mythology as history, you were already primed and ready to go. I’d be curious to know what the final elements of your conversion were, if you’d be willing to share them with us.

    “It was only because I trusted the man who issued all of the gorgeous and wise teachings in the gospels, that I entertained the notion that the God depicted in the Old Testament could be good.”

    Did you believe in the Judeo-Christian god after determining that it was good or before?

    • Tom says:

      Hey!!!!

      There was a guy named Zeus who lived on a mountain and had an electric machine!

    • Ken B says:

      To beat an old drum again .. Note how RPM accepts the Bible as reliable history here. He says he did that before his conversion. If we could get his mind back to that state he might take High Criticism seriously. But the ground has shifted since then. He accepts the bible as history. From that he accepts on Jesus’ word that the god of the bible is good. From that he gets the bible is reliable. And the circle closes.

      This expalins joeftansey’s observation that most believers eschew serious critical biblical analysis of the kind that Bob might have pursued pre conversion. It’s no longer relevant, the reliability question is answered.

      You can see the closed circle in a response Bob made last week: he trusts the word of good christians he knows that there really is no problem here. That only makes any sense at all if they CAN know, and they only CAN know if you trust the Bible already, as that’s what they rely on.

  11. Anonymouse says:

    “(1) I don’t really know. This is the honest answer.”

    I think that is one of the reasons that atheists are atheists. We look at a terrible passage from a religious text and say, “That’s terrible”. Then we look to the religious to explain why it’s not terrible and we either get confused answers or the occasional honest “I don’t really know”.

    The problem is, after you’ve said “I don’t really know” regarding five or six different things, there should come a point where you say to yourself, “God is supposed to be just, loving, good, and all that, except I can’t even make a coherent case demonstrating that that’s true. Gee whiz, have I made a huuuge mistake here?”

    • P.S. Huff says:

      Curious. Why do you think your moral convictions, the seemingly arbitrary products of biological and cultural evolution, have any basis in reality. Do you believe in a teleological force?

      • Anonymouse says:

        “Curious. Why do you think your moral convictions, the seemingly arbitrary products of biological and cultural evolution, have any basis in reality. Do you believe in a teleological force?”

        I view morality as ultimately subjective (in the economic sense), but I think the good of each individual can be furthered through peaceful cooperation.

        • Gene Callahan says:

          “I view morality as ultimately subjective (in the economic sense), but I think the good of each individual can be furthered through peaceful cooperation.”

          So what? Others don’t. It’s just your subjective opinion versus theirs.

          • Anonymouse says:

            The peaceful division of labor furthers the good of each participating individual. That’s an objective fact.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Anonymouse, it depends on what you define as “the good of each individual.”

              For those who want to live a life as a thief, and are willing to abandon logic and evidence, and sacrifice long terms gains made in a division of labor and trade, for short term gains made through theft, they will find participating in the division of labor to be “bad” for them.

              Only for people who are willing to abide by logical necessity and evidence, and prefer more long term material wealth, can you say that a division of labor and productive exchange “objectively” promotes the good for each participating individual.

              • Anonymouse says:

                “Anonymouse, it depends on what you define as ‘the good of each individual.’

                For those who want to live a life as a thief, and are willing to abandon logic and evidence, and sacrifice long terms gains made in a division of labor and trade, for short term gains made through theft, they will find participating in the division of labor to be ‘bad’ for them.

                Only for people who are willing to abide by logical necessity and evidence, and prefer more long term material wealth, can you say that a division of labor and productive exchange ‘objectively’ promotes the good for each participating individual.”

                Hmm… I think the division of labor objectively promotes the good for all participants, although it may not necessarily OPTIMIZE the good for every participant.

                In other words, peaceful cooperation does not impose costs in an accounting sense, although there may be opportunity costs.

                In any case, I allow for the possibility of individuals whose good is not compatible with my own, but I think they constitute an anti-social minority of the population and could be dealt with if the majority of individuals had a proper understanding of their personal good and how best to pursue it.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                In any case, I allow for the possibility of individuals whose good is not compatible with my own, but I think they constitute an anti-social minority of the population and could be dealt with if the majority of individuals had a proper understanding of their personal good and how best to pursue it.

                Dealt with how?

              • Anonymouse says:

                “Dealt with how?”

                Through libertarian means (anything non-aggressive).

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Through libertarian means (anything non-aggressive).

                Could you give an example?

              • Anonymouse says:

                “Could you give an example?”

                civil disobedience, economic ostracisation, private defense agencies, etc.

            • JTR says:

              Well, no its not, since it begs the question of what “the good” is which, obviously, is the very difference between you and the vast majority of the populace that cheers on things like war or taxes.

              “That’s an objective fact.”

              So you don’t believe in subjective morality. Good.

              • Anonymouse says:

                “Well, no its not, since it begs the question of what ‘the good’ is which, obviously, is the very difference between you and the vast majority of the populace that cheers on things like war or taxes.”

                I think those things harm the vast majority of the populace, so they might as well be cheering on bad weather or plagues.

                People can choose means which are incompatible with their ends. The means do not become good because they were chosen. The people who chose them are guilty of errors in judgement.

                “So you don’t believe in subjective morality. Good.”

                I’m applying the concept of economic value-subjectivity to morality. In economics, it is not a contradiction to say that a person’s subjective good is an objective fact.

                You may be confusing value-subjectivity with truth-subjectivity.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            So what? Others don’t. It’s just your subjective opinion versus theirs.

            TIL Callahan believes that the opinions of theists are really subjective.

  12. Anonymouse says:

    “I’ve explained several times and in different ways why I think there is a God”

    Just to make sure I’m keeping accurate track or your evidence for a god:

    1) Physical constants of the universe
    2) The beauty of mathematics
    3) Your paranormal experiences

    I’m really trying to understand your position, so I’m just wondering if I’ve left anything out?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Anonymouse, yes, you left out the energy of your sarcasm and cynicism. Those could not have arisen through mere happenstance.

      • Anonymouse says:

        lol

        It’s true, though, I often ask myself, “From what deep well doth this fount of righteous fury gush forth?” and I can find no other explanation than that the god of atheism is using me as a vessel to transmit its holy cargo.

      • Ken B says:

        Is this just snark or the argument from design?

    • joeftansey says:

      I tried looking into why Murphy thinks mathematics is so beautiful. I don’t see a particularly good exposition of his view in any posts, so I’ll just say this.

      There is enormous selection bias in mathematics. We are limited by *what we can actually do*. A good example of this is partial differential equations. Analytical solutions can only be found in simplified or toy cases, whereas “ugly” numerical schemes must be used to solve most systems.

      And then there are problems that you would *expect* to have beautiful simplified solutions, but are just persistently nasty. See sphere packing. A problem that by all rights should be pedestrian, since it involves only the arrangement of spheres. But the few proofs that exist are ad hoc and convoluted.

      I can point to countless other “ugly” and convoluted mathematical expressions and proofs. The end question is – can the ugly cases outweigh the beautiful ones?

      • Anonymouse says:

        “The end question is – can the ugly cases outweigh the beautiful ones?”

        Or, ‘Why does beauty = god?’

        • Ken B says:

          The argument I hear always turns out to be a disguised form of the beauty, precision, and order require a designer.
          It’s not really an answer though, just pushing the issue behind a veil of mystery.

        • joeftansey says:

          I think if mathematics were suspiciously beautiful, that would be evidence of something weird going on.

          • Anonymouse says:

            Why? Wouldn’t it be evidence that we evolved to appreciate the way things are?

            • joeftansey says:

              By “beautiful” I don’t mean aesthetic, I mean that a surprising number of complex phenomena reduce to remarkably simple equations.

              Like in the “beautiful” proofs, all the nasty terms will cancel out. Except then there are a lot of proofs where the nasty stuff doesn’t cancel.

              If the nasty stuff ALWAYS cancelled that would be weird.

              • Anonymouse says:

                “I mean that a surprising number of complex phenomena reduce to remarkably simple equations.”

                I’m not sure why that implies design, though, or why it should be surprising.

                Speaking as a non-mathematician, I view complexity as an emergent phenomenon, so I would generally expect complex phenomena to be built upon simpler phenomena.

              • joeftansey says:

                Look at it this way. If all mathematics were ugly and nasty, no one would remark.

                But if *no matter what you did* you couldn’t get nasty equations or could prove that you had proved EVERYTHING, that would be weird. It would mean that human beings were perfectly adapted to logic.

                Even if you think logic is a human construct, it would still be weird. Like if human beings played basketball PERFECTLY, it would raise some questions.

            • Ken B says:

              Oh you skeptics! You have a logical answer for everything.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            I think it would be impossible for mathematics to be “suspiciously” beautiful even in principle.

            Since our minds are a part of reality, they cannot be constructed in any way other way that the logical way we understanding that which is outside ourselves.

            Hope this doesn’t sound too boorish, but it’s like a water molecule in a body of water understanding other water molecules in what can only be a water molecule way.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              MF wrote:

              I think it would be impossible for mathematics to be “suspiciously” beautiful even in principle.

              I’m hoping you object to the “suspicious” part, right? I.e. you agree that not only in principle, but even in practice, mathematics is beautiful, right?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Yup, that is what I am saying.

      • Ken B says:

        Why just mathematics? After all, the argument from beauty is really just an oblique form of the argument from pleasure: the test of mathematical beauty IS the aesthetic pleasure it gives. Mathematics isn’t the only form of pleasure? Why not the argument from Cheryl Tiegs? Or an argument from orgasm? Because the connection to the argument from design, which is wrong, is too clear. You can’t even fool yourself with it. So believers swoon about mathematics. I ask thn: how do you judge mathematical beauty without invoking pleasure?

  13. Anonymouse says:

    “…it has to be the case that it was just for God to issue the rules in Deuteronomy…”

    Well, it doesn’t HAVE to be the case. You’ve simply assumed that it’s the case, without being able to explain why.

    “…even though many of them admittedly sound quite draconian and some even seem evil. …the real answer is, I don’t really know.”

    Imagine a group trying to recruit people whose slogan was “Our rules seem evil, but we don’t really know! Join today!”

    Oh wait, there are such groups…

    “If a man cuts off another man’s arms, so that he cannot earn a living, then the criminal must take in the victim into his own household, and care for him until he dies of old age.”

    I think that’s a good analogy, but clearly unjust to the victim who may not want to live with their aggressor for the rest of their life.

    Rothbard: 1
    God: 0

  14. Ori Pomerantz says:

    The Jewish understanding is that instead of the man controlling the marriage (choosing to get married, and being able to divorce), things get turned around. The woman has the OPTION to get married, and he is stuck with her. To be vulgar, she makes him her bitch.

    • Anonymouse says:

      I like that explanation better than “Well, it was a long time ago, so they couldn’t handle Rothbard”. On the other hand, is that what the passage literally says?

    • Ken B says:

      Interesting, but how old? I’d bet it all comes long after Leviticus first appeared.So it developed in reaction to Leviticus. There is a long literature of Jewish ‘comment’ on the Torah. Under comment I include ‘improvement’ and ‘correction’. That a society can learn to get around an awful chapter of an awful book does not make the book better.

  15. Anonymouse says:

    “God issues rules that are the best for us, at the time they are applicable.”

    This is just another ad hoc argument that will only satisfy the already faithful. You appear to be just making this stuff up as you go along. There’s no underlying logic or grand unifying theory here. I think you could do just as admirable of a job defending the legitimacy of “Alice in Wonderland”, “Go Dog, Go!”, or “The Communist Manifesto”.

    What you’re really doing, though (without realizing it), is implicitly admitting that there is scant evidence of god’s divinity and much evidence pointing in the opposite direction. The fact that there is a consistent and legitimate need to explain why god is not evil, irrational, or fallible should be a clue to you that something is seriously seriously wrong.

    If The Bible is good, it is only good in an Orwellian sense.

  16. joeftansey says:

    1) How much do you have to “not know” or “not be able to explain” before you get suspicious about the bible? Like let’s say you had yet to read a particular passage in the b-book. What is the bare minimum it would take to get you to cross some epistemic threshold?

    2) Dat cultural marxism :)

    3) The easiest way to protect a woman would be to require her rapist to pay her expected dowry, and then a portion of his yearly income for the rest of his life. If both parties wish, they could get married, but I see no reason to force a household between victim and criminal.

    God could also have tried to influence their culture by saying that if a woman is raped, her metaphysical virginity magically reappears after 1 year of abstinence (so no questions about who the father is, which I think was a major reason sexual monopoly – i.e. marriage – is so traditionally popular).

    5)

    a) Doesn’t this mean we can just ignore the bible and use our own judgment?

    b) The NT isn’t “new” by any standard. We’ve experienced more cultural change in the last 200 years than at any time in human history. You’d think we’d be due for a new set of rules, or could otherwise “deal with” the true objective ethics god really has in mind. So why haven’t we gotten the bible 3.0?

    Maybe it was scientology and we just missed the boat like jews and muslims did with Jesus :(

    • Anonymouse says:

      “Maybe it was scientology and we just missed the boat like jews and muslims did with Jesus”

      Exactly. That’s why Bob’s going to hell.

    • Ken B says:

      What an excellent point about ‘metaphysical virginity’. Especially since most christians believe (or say they believe) in the ‘real presence’.

  17. Anonymouse says:

    “… you probably were ‘mean’ and ‘angry’ when [your children] did things wrong. But as they got older, you seemed to mellow out and tried to reason with them more, appealing to their growing moral sense and so forth.”

    Anger is a sign that what you’re doing is not working. Anger is not an effective teaching method. Exceptional teachers do not get angry, because they have good relationships with their students, and their students learn well.

  18. Anonymouse says:

    So far, we’ve learned that god’s rules change over time, they’re not perfect, and god needed to use anger 3 thousand years ago, but not 2 thousand years ago. Putting aside the fact that that casts god in a decidedly non-divine light, let’s cut to the chase here: God doesn’t really care about god’s rules, does it?

    Think about it, you could devote your entire life to breaking EVERY-SINGLE-ONE of god’s rules on a daily basis and still get into heaven as long as you “accept Jesus” one second before you die. So, as important as god’s rules are supposed to be, let’s be honest: god doesn’t really care.

  19. Ken B says:

    Bob

    This seems a heartfelt, considered, and admirable meditation, so I’ll try to keep my snark within bounds, but there are still some serious problems here.

    “God issues rules that are the best for us, at the time they are applicable.” I assume that means in part when our moral sense is more mature.
    (I think it needs to mean that if you want to have a ghost of a chance dealing with Leviticus.)
    But then doesn’t Occam’s Razor cut deeply here? Once the community’s moral sense is sufficiently mature for a new, better rule, why do you need a god, much less the same one every time, to provide it?
    And of course your response is no answer to the problem of theodicy: god could have made us mature enough.
    That’s the main point here: this is just a small example of the problem of theodicy, and your answer doesn’t, well, answer.

    As you say, this law seems to have had a humane intent. So however much it trouble you this is a slow pitch over the middle of the plate compared to some of the laws and quotations available for your discomfiture. [More anon :) ]

    “It was only because I trusted the man who issued all of the gorgeous and wise teachings in the gospels, that I entertained the notion that the God depicted in the Old Testament could be good. ”
    It’s one thing to trust his moral compass, another to swallow his metaphysics; it’s just a non-sequitur.
    Perhaps you should look into the many early forms of christianity where Jesus is NOT the son of THAT god.
    (I’m quite serious about that btw, not just point scoring.)
    Again Occam shaves closely here: a new insight in the community, articulated by a man of charisma and moral clarity is simpler than BOTH a new insight in the community, articulated by a man of charisma AND a new draft from the author who was waiting for juuuust this moment.

    One ongoing complaint; think of it as a pedal point. You cite tales of Jesus as if they simple, clear, and unambiguous, allowing you to flit from citation to citation. But John and the synoptics present quire different visions. And why not the Gospel Of Thomas then?

  20. Ben Kennedy says:

    Good post – the thrust seems to be that divine regulation of a preexisting sinful condition is not an endorsement of that condition. When my kids fight over toys (covetousness), my parental “divine regulation” is to make them take turns with whatever they are fighting about. Obviously I would prefer that they lovingly share with each other, but knowing that left to their own devices they may start hurting each other I feel like I need to step in. Such a rule does not mean I am endorsing their covetousness, in fact it would be more cruel for me to not step in and risk on of them getting hurt

    • Ken B says:

      That’s a better point than Bob’s. I am curious though how it would apply to some other rules form Deut or Lev, like killing children who answer back.

      You also still have the real problem with the law from her point of view: she has to live with, and presumably sleep with, her rapist. It’s not an option she can choose if she wants, it’s required.

      [caveat: possibly the fact he cannot divorce her means she can refuse him sex without 'risking' divorces. I don't know the law of the tribe. My guess is he can go into her as a plow into his tilth, to make an allusion, but it's a guess on my part. In any event she can't sleep with or marry her true love.]

      • Ben Kennedy says:

        Are you referring to Deuteronomy 21:18?

        “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”

        My (limited) understanding of this passage is that was a protection for children, who up to this point had been considered the property of their parents (the preexisting sinful condition). Rather then unilaterally having the power to execute their children, they had to take it to the elders at the gates. There, the accused son would be publicly tried. So this was really a concern for due process, not an endorsement of a right to kill one’s children.

        As for the law seeming bad from the woman’s perspective, I agree that according to modern sensibilities it was definitely a problem. But today, women who have been raped are not considered unsuitable for marriage and forced into a terrible existence of poverty. The way rape victims were treated socially is the preexisting sinful condition God is regulating

        • Ken B says:

          Your understanding is an interpretation, no? Isn’t it a conjectured excuse? We see the same sort with kornaic apolgists implying that the tribes before Muhammad practiced all kinds of really vile stuff, so this vile stuff is such an improvement … But the earlier really vile stuff is entirely conjecural, created to provide the excuse.

          There are also times when god isn’t regulating, he’s threatening. Like when he threatens this in Lev
          ’26.27 And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me;
          26:28 Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.
          26:29 And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. ‘

          And without A1 sauce, which was not invented yet.

          Hard to argue god’s threat doesn’t represent god’s values.

          • Anonymouse says:

            “And without A1 sauce, which was not invented yet.”

            QED

          • Ben Kennedy says:

            Your understanding is an interpretation, no? Isn’t it a conjectured excuse?

            Of course it is a conjecture, none of have lived in ancient Israel. The point is how most of these “Gotcha! God is mean!” critiques really are not that particularly devastating

            Hard to argue god’s threat doesn’t represent god’s values.

            Same thing – when a set of consequences for disobedience is sandwiched right between a set of blessings for obedience and a promise of restoration for those that have disobeyed, I don’t want away thinking God is a bad guy

            • Ken B says:

              No, you go away thinking god threatened to force people to eat their children should they displease him. God is good so this must be good too.

              • Ben Kennedy says:

                Well, I go away thinking that ancient kings really ought not to have been setting up golden calves to worship, otherwise God may allow foreign armies to besiege your city and cause distressing famine (II Kings 6). Context matters, and I’m not worried that I will be forced to eat my children.

                I think some of the harder Biblical challenges are more along the lines of predestination and judgment – how can God send people to Hell who died before they could even hear of Jesus, that sort of thing.

              • Ken B says:

                Ben K: “how can God send people to Hell who died before they could even hear of Jesus, that sort of thing”
                Indeed. But RPM rather airily dismissed all those worries in his Hitchens remarks. http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2012/03/now-that-he-cant-respond-i-critique-christopher-hitchens.html#comment-33987

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Ken B., suppose Ron Paul says, “If we invade Iran, don’t be surprised when there are more suicide attacks on US soil in the following decade.” Would it be OK for him to say such a thing?

              • Anonymouse says:

                “…suppose Ron Paul says, ‘If we invade Iran, don’t be surprised when there are more suicide attacks on US soil in the following decade.’”

                That’s not a good analogy if we’re talking about things god threatened to do to people. I better analogy would be, “Suppose Ron Paul threatened to make people eat their children.”

              • Ken B says:

                Bob: yes, if he believes it he SHOULD say it.

                The formatting makes it hard to tell what point you are responding to.

                Point A god hides the path:
                That is in no way analogous to a god who
                1) damns you if you don’t believe X
                2) won’t tell you X

                Point B: god threatens forced cannibalism. This can only be a threat that god will force you to eat your kids. That is nothning like a warning bad guys will murder your kids.

            • Ken B says:

              What I mean by conjecture is this: do you have evidence aside from an inference drawn foirm this law, that things were worse as you describe?
              Here’s an example. I tell RPM the Irish are beasts because St Patrick told them to strangle babies and bake them in pies. Oh that’s actually a kindness because before St P they used to bake them alive. Exculpatory for sure, but there is no independent evidence for this live baking.

    • Anonymouse says:

      Why not just zap them with a lightning bolt every time they start fighting?

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Because then it would have been harder for Maxwell to discover his equations.

        • Anonymouse says:

          I was going to comment that Maxwell was smarter than god, but then I read one of his poems…

          Gin a body meet a body
          Flyin’ through the air.
          Gin a body hit a body,
          Will it fly? And where?

  21. Ken B says:

    I want to expand on a point I glanced at earlier: believers flit from citation to citation as if tales of Jesus were simple, clear, and unambiguous.
    They are not. They are contradictory; the context varies from gospel to gospel; the christology changes; sources are partial and many are arbitrarily ignored.
    To pull a Murphy let me reach for a not entirely fair and accurate analogy.
    It is 2744 and you are awriting the history of the Romney administration.
    You take the collected speeches of Mitt Romney, the only remaining sources, and parse them not in the light of which audience he was wooing in which campaign at which time, but treat each pronouncement as a reliable guide to his actions in office.
    Like sthe speeches, our sources are not historical records. They are preaching tools. Theya re tendentious by nature and must be approached with that in mind.

    One interesting example of how to do is that is principle of dissimilarity. This says that elements of the docum,ent that undercut the author’s interpretation of view are likely form an earlier time. The author had no reason to invent the embarassing detail, but had a reason (reverence) to preserve it.
    You can imagine Romney examples in my hypothetical. Here’s one from Mark:
    Jesus tells his disciples to keep secrets from the masses, so the masses won’t know the truth, otherwise they might be saved.
    “And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
    And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”
    KJV, Mark 4:10 et seq

    It is unlikely that anyone who thinks Jesus wants to save people made this up.
    So it probably came from the sources and traditions ‘Mark’ used.

    {NB To forestal some opera buffa defense: Some will quote this passage with quotation marks embedded.
    The quotation marks are intended to imply Jesus din’t mean what it seems. Possible, but the quoatation marks are in no source and are interpretation.
    The quotation marks would FAIL the test of dissimilarity. Cute huh?]

  22. Tzadik says:

    According to old-time Hebraic Law, sex and marriage are the same act (sort of but pretty much). A rapist marries his victim because he has already married his victim. He’s punished for not doing it the official way, so he has to pay. No one else is going to touch the victim anyway, as pointed out in the OP.

  23. Major_Freedom says:

    (1) I don’t know…

    What can atheists and theists agree on, in terms of fundamentals, that both can know?

    (2) There are other rules regarding sex, and although they are very harsh, they’re actually fairly equal in their treatment of the two sexes…

    In terms of who gets killed, yes. But in terms of what is just and unjust towards the living, it’s not even close. Those who want a morality for human life, won’t find gender equity in the bible.

    (3) It is clear that the point of the rule is actually to protect the woman…My point is, it was way worse back then…

    Was it really worse back then though? What did people do “wrong” back then, that is different today such that OT law conveniently no longer applies? As far as I know, there’s nothing. Worshipping false idols, adultery, no virginity at marriage, murder, theft, rape, the list goes on and on.

    You imagine a horrible time with people doing horrible things back in 2000 BC (or whenever), and yet people are still doing those bad things today. Seriously, why isn’t the OT still applicable?

    Further, aren’t you just cutting the rug out from under the NT as well? If biblical law truly is valid only temporally as you say, if “God’s laws” are valid only to a particular period of history, then doesn’t that mean the NT itself has an expiry date as well? Wouldn’t it apply to us only so long as we continue to be “bad” in “our” own way?

    What if I said that the NT law indeed expired? What argument can you give against this, that wouldn’t also undercut your defense of the NT against the OT?

    There were fewer atheists and secular, individualist ethicists back then too. Do you think that had anything to do with why so many people were so “bad” back then?

    Aren’t you just taking your personal secular ethics, and judging the people back then to have been “bad”, which is correct in my view, but you are mistakenly conceiving of your judgments to be grounded in something external to those secular ethics, such as the NT, which in reality isn’t meant to overturn the OT at all (see Matthew 5:17)?

    Could it be that you are really fully encapsulating of the entire concept of God that you are trying to put outside of yourself before judging other people, back in OT times, and today?

    (4) When asked about divorce, on one occasion Jesus says the only reason Moses allowed men to divorce their wives was because “of the hardness of your hearts,” and then explains that this was never what God originally intended when He created the institution of marriage.

    It seems Christian theologians believe people have not being doing “what they are supposed to do” since the very beginning of humanity (Adam and Eve). I wonder why they came up with such a “disobedience” story of Adam and Eve. Could it be that the priest’s egos took the form of subjugating others to some alleged external moral concept, in order to control them, and the only way to do it was to condemn humanity as such to some “sin”?

    (5) One obvious complaint with rationalizations such as the one I just gave, is to accuse me of moral relativism. “Oh, so your omnipotent God of perfect justice, has evolving standards of righteousness over time? Huh, how convenient. Of course, this is just what we’d expect if God were an invention of humans, whose ‘eternal’ precepts changed with cultural norms.”

    Right, I get why an atheist would say that, but I can just as well say this: God has standards of perfection. No matter what, we humans can never live up to them. So, dealing with us as we are, God issues rules that are the best for us, at the time they are applicable.

    If humans can never live up to these “standards of perfection”, then how are you even cognizant of them to even say they exist, and why aren’t they in the bible?

    I can ask you why they aren’t in the bible because you are saying here that you believe that the laws of God change, and are only applicable to specific times and people, given how “good” or “bad” they choose to be.

    Notwithstanding the fact that this is empirically identical to a world without the existence of Gods, where human moralities change according to human standards only, but you seem to be saying that the bible is not the perfect word of God, and is only applicable to specific times.

    Well how do you know the perfect standard of God, if A. It’s not in the bible, and B. Humans are incapable of even knowing it?

    That’s how I view God interacting with humans. The Ten Commandments were very explicit, and mostly told you what not to do. Yet when Jesus was asked the greatest commandment, He said to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and added that the second greatest was to love your neighbor as yourself.

    What if a person believes in God and hates themselves, and then goes about this “second greatest” rule? Wouldn’t they become a tyrant? I think many people do hate themselves, and hate humanity in general. If they were to become followers of Jesus, they’d become a, oh let’s through this out there, war monger evangelical, abusive parent, bigoted hater. You know the type I’m talking about.

  24. Markham says:

    Your point #3 is what I have always thought too. As I started reading, I also found myself thinking of your point #4 before reading it. None of these rules were necessary before the fall.

  25. Paul says:

    Bob, I don’t see why we can’t discuss the motivation of God, unless that is an argument that you would rather not bring to the table at this point. I think the question of motivation needs to be put on the table, for I think that ultimately, if we understand motivation, then, with enough study, scripture as well as morality will make much more sense.

  26. John@EconEngineer says:

    I appreciate your thoughts on the matter Bob. I personally agree with your thoughts on 3,4, and 5 and think they are the likely explanations.

    One additional thought I had on the matter I came across while reading John 10:34 where Christ states to Jews about ready to stone him for blasphemy “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?”
    Christ often refers to the Law as “your Law” when talking to the Jews. I haven’t done the research, (and it could be revealing if the research was done) that when Christ refers to “your Law” versus “the Law” it is in reference to people who force the Law on themselves. Christ kept the Law, but was never under it, he fulfilled it without ever feeling its weight. I think the Law was put in place for similar reasons you stated, to guide the Jewish people to maturity, at which point they should fulfill the Law without being under it by following the foundational principles of Loving God and Loving People. Like a child who matures out of the laws of his parents house; he retains the foundation that the laws were built on but he isn’t under them anymore. He has fulfilled them. Hope that makes some sense.

  27. joshua says:

    I admire your efforts, Bob, but you should really do some basic research before postulating all this stuff. It’s not like you’re the first person to ever speculate about these things. A quick Google search pulled up some analyses:

    http://www.equip.org/bible_answers/how-could-the-bible-command-a-rape-victim-to-marry-her-rapist-

    http://www.gotquestions.org/Deuteronomy-22-28-29-marry-rapist.html (some of the points are rather weak, IMO, but there’s an interesting reference regarding Tamar in 2 Samuel)

    Their conclusions are actually pretty close to your #3, but you don’t have to just throw some stuff against the wall from your own head; you can also draw from the analysis of thousands of years of Biblical scholars, and then comment on whether or not you think their explanations are satisfactory.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      These Sunday posts really do wonders for my inflated ego. You guys should try it sometime: Have 8 people on both sides of an issue tell you how bad your post was.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Religious thinking unfortunately does that to people. Christians are intellectually attacked by Atheists and Muslims. Atheists are intellectually attacked by Christians and Muslims. Muslims are intellectually attacked by Christians and Atheists. No one can say anything good about what they believe, to the other two.

        It’s kind of like socialism. One socialist who favorably espouses a particular socialist program in detail, is likely to rile other socialists and even non-socialists, because A. every socialist has their own conception of what socialism is “supposed” to be about, and B. Every non-socialist dislikes socialism.

      • joshua says:

        Aw I didn’t imply it was that bad did I? Feel free to replace “you should really” with “I encourage you to” and other random positive more ego-boosting edits.

  28. CA says:

    The passage in the Bible says that if a man seduced a girl and she is not a virgin anymore, limiting her chances of getting married again (and, therefore, getting any kind of source of livelihood back in the day), she (and her parents) can FORCE HIM to marry her and support her. She does not have to do that if she does not want to. They can also come to some sort of arrangement.

    I don’t see how this is relevant to the case of the Moroccan girl who was forced to marry her rapist.

  29. Ken B says:

    Now Bob. Some of us said your post was good. I think you are very wrong but I praised the effort, and I’m not the only one.
    Anyone even mildly libertarian should be used to this!

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