The Range of Permissible Acts — Part 4

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4

There are a couple more things, points I think worth making in the broader context of religious beliefs in relation to society:

Right now in the U.S., there’s at least one preacher – and not some inbred freak who slithered out of a swamp, but a mainstream voice reputable enough to make it into the news – who encouraged his flock to pray for the death of the president.

Whether this is based on specific words in the Bible – frankly, right this moment I’m not interested enough to look it up – it is based on something well-enough known in religious circles that there’s a common term for it: Imprecatory Prayer.

Imagine two men saying this: “I hope the president dies. I want everybody within the sound of my voice to hope the president dies. It would be a great thing, friends and neighbors, if the president died. I call on all of you to actively contemplate the death of the president, to cherish the notion of him dying, and soon.”

If the one is a religious leader and the other is the manager of a department store, which will get a visit from the Secret Service? Which won’t?  Right. Even non-believers often fall under the umbrella of religion’s Range of Permissible Acts. It’s been extremely rare that religious crazies were even slightly condemned, and it’s still not all that common. Sometimes we won’t even publicly admit that anything bad has happened.

The “scandal” of Catholic priests molesting children is recent, but you have to know the actual abuse – safely harbored behind official church secrecy, and supported by extreme reluctance on the part of secular authorities to even listen to victims – has been going on for centuries.

The Range of Permissible Acts in Christianity’s Bible – fantastically broad, scarily generous and supportive of almost any level of zeal – has been used to back acts ranging from simple individual child abuse to campaigns of slavery and genocide.

In my opinion, no matter how much good is attributed to holy-book style religion, no reasonable person can actually support it.

And finally, this:

There’s some source for human morality, right?

I say it’s something worked out by rational adults over time.

Christians say it’s the Bible.

Yet solely on the issue of cutting off women’s hands, something you can easily find in the pages of the Bible, but nowhere outside it, biblical morality falls short of modern secular morality.

To say it another way: Society has advanced beyond the Bible. Modern morality is independent from, in many ways better than that in the Bible.

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  • machintelligence

    Actually, when you look at descriptive ethics, cultures all over the world are pretty similar. I would argue that this is good evidence that morality is evolved in the human species by natural selection, and only slightly modified by culture. (I find the study of descriptive ethics to be far more interesting than prescriptive ethics.)

  • davidct

    One can only state that the bible is an authoritative moral guide if one has not bothered to read it. Other wise it quickly becomes clear that the great book of multiple choice is a guide that must be “interpreted” with no rules for doing so.

    It always amazes me that people who cry about being patriots feel free to disrespect the office of the President.

    • Aliasalpha

      Great now I’m going to think of the bible as a choose your own adventure.

      - If you would like to discriminate against the gay man, turn to Leviticus 18:22
      - If you would like to murder your child because it refused to clean up it’s room, turn to Leviticus 20:9

  • JesseW

    Here are links to the 4 parts:
    Part 1
    Part 2
    Part 3
    Part 4

    • Hank Fox

      Jesse, thanks! I usually do that somewhere on these multi-part posts, but it just slipped by me this time. Fixed in five minutes!

      • JesseW

        Excellent! I’m rather a WikiGnome, so this sort of thing just comes naturally; but it’s much better to have it inline with the posts.

  • Boko999

    I enjoy the content of your posts but find the way they are broken up extremely annoying and I think breaking them up this way diminishes their impact. I’m not sure if it’s a deal breaker for me yet.

    Time always tells :-)