Like A Game Of Whack-A-Mole

PZ Myers takes apart some condescending and familiar unhelpful advice to atheists on how to “seem nicer.” This paragraph hits the whacks the mole on the head best though:

What is “the” Christological narrative? There is none, or rather, there’s a thousand of them. We know the context, too — that the Bible is an evolving mess of over-interpreted poetry and tribal stories and crackpot history. Why you guys choose to selectively declare one interpretation of one subset of the conglomeration to be the absolute truth as dictated by anthropomorphic vapor, while another arbitrary subset is archaic and doesn’t apply anymore, is completely incomprehensible…not just to us, but to you, too.

We atheists actually do address the claims fervently held by millions of people. The sneaky trick the theological wankers pull, though, is that once we’ve smacked them down, they announce, “Oh, no — we didn’t mean those millions of believers. They’re stupid. We meant these other millions of believers.” It’s a big game of whack-a-mole. What you call “obscure Old Testament laws,” someone else will call the core of their faith. What you value as the “Christological narrative,” a member of yet another sect will call pretentious confabulations.

Atheists just cut through all the noise and call it all sewage.

Emphasis mine.

The notion that you can dismiss entire books of barbaric Old Testament laws and deeds allegedly commanded to the Israelites by God Himself as “obscure” is a joke.  Laws forcing rape victims to marry their rapists were not “obscure” to the women forced into such marriages.  Neither did the children stoned for disobedience likely find such laws “obscure.”  The obscurity of these heinous commands is just a function of their suppression from the popular mind by contemporary Western religion.   They’re “obscure” in that Christians don’t bother talking about them as much as they obsess over, say, Leviticus 18:22 or Leviticus 20:13—you know, those verses which express the clear and unchanging moral commands of God.

But there’s nothing obscure about what the texts say and appeal to obscurity does not have the least hope of changing the logical implications that people who believe a good God commanded all the laws of the Old Testament believe a good God could and did command women to marry their rapists.  Either the book is divinely inspired and authoritative or it’s not.  Either the ancient Israelites rightly interpreted God’s will or they did not.  If they were so completely backwards as to be completely mistaken and it’s actually not true that God ever wanted raped women to be forced to marry their rapists, then in what sense is the Old Testament the “word of God” and not just the record of ancient barbarism?  If the content of the Old Testament at all stems from an all-powerful, all-benevolent God then there are no loopholes for allowing that rape victims being forced to marry their rapists was “sort of” what God meant but not exactly or any other such rationalizing gibberish.  It’s not an issue with a lot of gray in it.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.