Imaginary Crimes

One of the defining attributes of all the world’s religions through history is that they create imaginary crimes; that is, arbitrary rules the obeying of which helps no person, and the breaking of which hurts no person. In the beginning, many religions start off as simple, humble affairs; some even have the audacity to insist that our only duty is to love one another. But as time goes by, those simple faiths inevitably become complex and elaborated.

Clergy and theologians, who’d have a tough time justifying their pay if all they did was echo the words of the previous generation, come up with new laws and teachings which are claimed to purify the heart and make the path to God easier. Often, the habits of the founders are self-consciously imitated (even to the point of mimicking the way they brushed their teeth), turning simple customs into binding rules.

With time, these rules multiply and accumulate until they become overwhelming. Surveying the world’s major religions, the list of prohibitions goes on and on: rules against eating meat on certain days, against eating certain kinds of animals at all, against eating food prepared without the proper rituals, against working on certain ways, against cutting – or refraining from cutting – one’s hair, against speaking certain words, against unapproved forms of consensual sexual intimacy, against reading disapproved books, against marrying or befriending nonbelievers, even against participating in outside society in general. This list could be extended almost without limit, but the point is that for many religious believers, life is hedged about on every side with arbitrary and seemingly pointless rules. Virtually every commonplace activity, no matter how mundane, has been barred by the rules of some sect.

Sadly, because of the violently deluded, these imaginary crimes often result in real harm. In the Middle Ages, there was the imaginary crime of “host-nailing,” where Christians imagined that Jews were stealing consecrated wafers from churches and driving nails through them in order to crucify Jesus afresh and prolong his suffering. Across Europe, Christian mobs incited to frenzy by these wild accusations regularly went on rampages where they brutally murdered hundreds of innocent Jews.

The ridiculous accusation of host-nailing finds a parallel today in the imaginary crime of depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Like medieval Christians, modern Muslims have been all too willing to condone violence against anyone, even a non-Muslim, who violates the Islamic prohibition on creating images of their prophet. Again, such an act harms no one, has no relation to human needs or concerns, yet terrorist leaders and the deranged mobs who follow at their heels have been positively eager to call for destruction and bloodshed in order to avenge their hurt feelings.

Modern Christians, too, have invented the imaginary crime of gay marriage: a very real human cause that they battle against purely because they imagine it violates the will of God. Providing further evidence of how these imaginary transgressions are valued above actual, legitimate concerns, religious conservatives have steadily one-upped each other in the unhinged, literally apocalyptic rhetoric they use to warn about the disaster it would be if marriage equality came to pass. Meanwhile, the countries and U.S. states that have already legalized gay marriage have noticeably failed to crumble into chaos.

I’ve quoted it before, in “No Commandments“, but this passage from a rabbi bears repeating:

That most of the [kosher] laws are divine ordinances without reason given is 100 per cent the point. It is very easy not to murder people. Very easy. It is a little bit harder not to steal because one is tempted occasionally. So that is no great proof that I believe in God or am fulfilling His [sic] will. But, if He tells me not to have a cup of coffee with milk in it with my mincemeat and peaches at lunchtime, that is a test. The only reason I am doing that is because I have been told to so do. It is something difficult.”

The arbitrary, reasonless nature of religious edicts is freely admitted by many of their own believers. Breaking these rules does no harm to anyone, has no effect on the world at all, but there are still millions of people who take them so seriously that any transgression, even by a non-believer, will be met with insane fury and howling threats of violence. (Warning: Link leads to a very long comment thread; loading may be slow.)

There are many good, non-arbitrary rules in religion: injunctions to care for one’s fellow man, to help the poor and the needy, to promote peace and wisdom. But these rules are good precisely because they have tangible effects on human welfare, and can be justified on that basis without appealing to the supernatural. Defending them requires no divine revelation, merely the human sense of conscience and the observation that we are all better off in a world where more people are happy.

On the other hand, any rule that can only be justified by appealing to God’s will is by definition pointless and arbitrary. Such rules have no connection to reality or to human concerns. Obeying these rules does not make us morally better or make anyone else better off; it merely inculcates in people the habit of obedience. Worse, it stirs a spirit of irrational hatred and antipathy to those who call these imaginary crimes what they are and refuse to be bound by them.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://wilybadger.wordpress.com Chris Swanson

    Another spot-on article! Thanks!

  • http://thegreenbelt.blogspot.com The Ridger

    There is a science fiction story by someone – I cannot remember who – about a physics professor and his wife who find themselves assisting the devil in saving Hell from Evil. They are a bit puzzled by this, but the devil explains that Hell is for sinners, and sin is “statutory wrongdoing” – things that aren’t actually bad but just against the religious law. (He also points out that both of them are going to end up in Hell so they ought to help him save it.)

  • mona

    It’s the real world application of Euthyphro’s dilemma, isn’t it?

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    There’s some anthropologist — I can’t remember her name now, I really should have smoked less weed in college — who theorized that, when it came to very important and powerful aspects of our lives that feel out of our control, such as sex and food and drugs, the very fact of having a taboo is more psychologically important than what that taboo is. Having taboos makes us feel that these things are manageable and under our control, and makes our lives feel less like howling chaos.

    Which I think has some truth. But I also think we’d be a lot better off if we could at least try to have our taboos be based in reality, guided by practical and ethical concerns. When it comes to sexual taboos, for instance, I’d much rather have a taboo against rape than a taboo against oral sex. The better we understand the world, the more our sorting of it can be based on reality, instead of being essentially random and yet held to as tightly as a life preserver.

  • Dawn Rhapsody

    Excellent post; completely relevant and containing some interesting notions I haven’t heard much of before. Reminds me of your essay “Rats in a Maze” in a bit of an ironic light, though I put forward that perhaps a board game would be a better analogy — except God’s rules are more like the rules a ten-year-old would make if he was trying to show everyone how impossible it is to win his game. Oh, and a bad roll of the dice will can net you eternal damnation. :)

    Also, I think there’s a typo in the third paragraph, “against working on certain ways”. Certain days?

  • goyo

    I checked out the link for the toothbrushing, and for a moment, thought it was a joke.
    The fact that the writer includes “may allah be pleased”, and “peace and blessings upon him”, after every mention of these people’s names seems to be a taboo of itself.
    It’s like, if you don’t include a mini-prayer that god will bestow favor upon these people, he won’t.

  • Stephen

    I also at first thought the tooth-brushing must be a leg-pull, but apparently not.

    However I disagree with the part about Christians battling against same-sex marriage “purely because they imagine it violates the will of God”. I think that in this case most of the Christians involved are actually using religion to justify their own prejudices. It thus falls in a different category from the prohibitions on eating meat on Fridays or eating meat and milk products together.

  • Alex Weaver

    However I disagree with the part about Christians battling against same-sex marriage “purely because they imagine it violates the will of God”. I think that in this case most of the Christians involved are actually using religion to justify their own prejudices.

    Where did these prejudices come from, if not from religious edicts about the purpose of marriage and the supposed wrongness of homosexual relationships?

  • Polly

    against working on certain ways,

    I think you mean “days.” 3rd paragraph, 2nd sentence.

    I once heard of a pastor who’e sermon consisted of one word, “LOVE.” I don’t know if this is urban legend or what. But, to me, that sounds about right.

    <where Christians imagined that Jews were stealing consecrated wafers from churches and driving nails through them in order to crucify Jesus afresh and prolong his suffering. So THAT’s what PZ Meyers was doing!!! Man, I really didn’t get it.

    Islam also has the inane prohibition of depicting Anything in nature (so I’ve heard). This means that for some cultures who took this seriously, branches of the arts were off-limits. Think of all the sculptures and paintings that couldn’t be created throughout the years.

    @Stephen,

    However I disagree with the part about Christians battling against same-sex marriage “purely because they imagine it violates the will of God”. I think that in this case most of the Christians involved are actually using religion to justify their own prejudices.

    The moment I stopped believing in the Bible, I did a 180 on gay-rights (I’m FOR ‘em now). The ONLY thing that made me think homosexuality needed “combatting” before was that I believed that was god’s will. I suspect that’s the same for many xians. The Bible forces you to believe things you know are wrong.

  • Stephen

    Where did these prejudices come from, if not from religious edicts about the purpose of marriage and the supposed wrongness of homosexual relationships?

    A psychologist would be better placed to answer that than me, but if you’re suggesting that all prejudices are based on religion then you are surely over-reaching. Take for example the prejudice (in Britain at least, and to a lesser extent also in the Netherlands) of working-class people against people with upper-class accents and vice-versa. Religious? I doubt it very much.

    Almost everyone is inclined to think that their own way of doing things is correct, particularly if it matches with the behaviour of family and friends. It’s very easy to slip from “people (I know) don’t do that” to “people shouldn’t do that”.

    And with this subject, the prejudice is surely based to a significant extent on the feeling that anal sex is disgusting.

    I could see eye-to-eye with a couple of University friends on most things, but they were anti-homosexual. It was only after I’d challenged them on that a few times over the course of a year or two that I think they started to see that their feelings weren’t really based on anything other than the above point and the fact that they’d never really discussed the issue with anyone. And they were not religious at all.

    Even if I were to concede your point, where did the religious edicts come from? They clearly are not in the same category as the main subjects of this post. Anyone might eat meat on a Friday, gather firewood on a Sunday or have a haircut. But a large majority of people are not inclined to homosexual activity anyway. Surely the anti-homosexual pasages in the bible are merely stating and reinforcing the pre-existing prejudices of the authors.

  • Alex Weaver

    A psychologist would be better placed to answer that than me, but if you’re suggesting that all prejudices are based on religion then you are surely over-reaching. Take for example the prejudice (in Britain at least, and to a lesser extent also in the Netherlands) of working-class people against people with upper-class accents and vice-versa. Religious? I doubt it very much.

    Explainable in terms of historical events and situations. The same is not true of anti-gay prejudice.

  • Mr.Pendent

    Although I find the prejudice against homosexuality nonsense, I should have thought that the origin would be as obvious to anyone as the prohibition against murder.

    In short, as you have pointed out, most religious “rules” are but thinly disguised rules to extend your genes (and therefore your species’ genes) into the next generation. Killing one of your own doesn’t help this. Likewise, non-reproductive sex does little to ensure the next generation.

    Almost all laws and religious sins can be traced, in my opinion, to a few simple biological principles, including:

    Don’t kill others like you (of your own genes, then family, then tribe, then kind, in that order)
    Don’t do things that might make others want to kill you, in case they don’t pay attention to the other rule
    Make more like yourself

    These rules are true for dogs, monkeys, humans and just about any other creature. When you start to see things like political ideologies, religions and regionalities in a somewhat biological sense, many of the other laws that we as a society have adopted make perfect sense.

    And also interesting that someone mentioned the disgust associated with anal sex (which, presumably, lesbians don’t practice–and thus negating this as the source for the aversion to homosexuality), considering the article recently linking disgust with strong moral reactions.

    I apologize if this sounds know-it-all-ish or snooty. It is not meant that way. I write in a humble attempt to contribute. :)

  • http://kaltrosomos.livejournal.com/ Kaltrosomos

    Speaking of imaginary crimes, I think I recently ran across another one. Apparently I’m guilty of the crime of not respecting beliefs I find totally absurd. This is dinstict from respecting a person’s *right* to hold that belief.

    I respect the right to hold whatever religious beliefs you want, but is it really a crime to criticise the beliefs themselves?

    When I spoke disparagingly of Catholic beliefs at Mark Shea’s blog, “Catholic and enjoying it,” I got banned. More than that, St. Mark decided to compare me to Napoleon Dynamite. He’s also fond of labeling us fundamentalists, and idiots, and fools, and “emotional defectives”. He spares those atheists who totally respect Christian belief and wish they were more Christian themselves from his rhetoric.

    So have I really committed a crime by belittling the belief that the eucharist is a piece of Jesus? Why is it that we’re supposed to act like these beliefs are completely respectable, and not say bad things about them, when many theists are more than willing to criticize and badmouth us? Not only do they call our lack of belief in God foolish. They also call US fools. And idiots. And say we lack some sort of essential ingredient, which makes us less than human. And we’re supposed to stand by and treat their ridiculous beliefs as respectable, never saying an unkind word? What gives?

  • Alex Weaver

    Building on what Kaltrosomos says, even the ones who aren’t like that expect me to listen to them expounding on their metaphysical speculation without complaint, but consider it an attack for me to explain any details of my disagreement with their beliefs. And generally they expect me to be more “ok” with them thinking I’m sick and in need of a cure, or at most “incomplete,” than they are with me telling them I think they’re honestly mistaken. My wife and sister are particularly bad about this, if only because I spend more time talking to them.

  • velkyn

    exactly why does a supposedly omniscient being have to “test” people? By defintion, he already knows what they will do.

    Oh, Ridger, the story I think you are talking about is “The Devil You Don’t” by Keith Laumer, found in the anthology “Alchemy and Academe” edited by Anne McCaffrey.

  • http://www.maulis.com Ben Maulis

    Your statement, “Modern Christians, too, have invented the imaginary crime of gay marriage: a very real human cause that they battle against purely because they imagine it violates the will of God,” is false and the analogy to the crime of depicting Mohammed is misleading. Homosexual relations are explicitly forbidden by the law of Moses in writing. This is the same moral code that is the basis of most of the world’s criminal justice systems. Although you may not agree, you cannot remove the history the codification of morality with the scratch of a revisionist’s pen.

    I am not arguing that all the law of Moses has been incorporated into criminal codes. My point is that the “crime” is neither “modern” nor “imaginary.” It is both ancient and just as real as any other code like “thou shalt not steal,” “thou shalt not kill.” Your morality may make stealing and killing merely arbitrary violations of an imagined set of rules, but you know better.

    The criminality of depicting Mohammed is not in the Quran. Like the criminality of eating meat and dairy at the same time, it was contrived by men. The law of Moses reads, “do not boil a kid in the milk of its mother,” from which rabbinical extensions were made. The Talmud is comprised of rabbinic discussion, not the word of God. Many jews question the authority of the Talmud and although it was not written until hundreds of years after Christ came in the flesh, Jesus himself rebuked the jews for the traditions of men which made the word of God of no effect.

    “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, [as] the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition…. Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”

  • Polly

    @Ben Maulis,

    My point is that the “crime” is neither “modern” nor “imaginary.” It is both ancient and just as real as any other code like “thou shalt not steal,” “thou shalt not kill.”

    You miss the point. The justness of law is rooted in its effect on humans, not its pedigree. The rationale for making murder and theft illegal is that it’s bad for society and it HURTS people unjustly.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    The criminality of depicting Mohammed is not in the Quran. Like the criminality of eating meat and dairy at the same time, it was contrived by men.

    Wait, so you admit that the books that laid the foundation for your religion, that Jesus preached for, etc. were written by men? Nice.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Ben,

    Homosexual relations are explicitly forbidden by the law of Moses in writing. This is the same moral code that is the basis of most of the world’s criminal justice systems.

    And I suppose before the law of Mose appeared in one area of the middle-east that everyone in the world was killing each other recklessly and stealing whenever they felt like it and raping without mercy, right? You’re talking as if before the Jews existed there were no laws, no moral codes that made distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable action, also ignoring that very similiar moral codes pop up in regions all over the world, regardless of their contact with the laws of Moses.

    What reason could you possibly have to justify that homosexuality should be a crime, or should be forbidden? Consentual relationships in which both people are attracted to each other harm people no more whether they be same sex or opposite sex, unlike laws for which demonstratable harm is involved with non-consentual acts like murder or thieft?

  • Alex Weaver

    Your statement, “Modern Christians, too, have invented the imaginary crime of gay marriage: a very real human cause that they battle against purely because they imagine it violates the will of God,” is false and the analogy to the crime of depicting Mohammed is misleading. Homosexual relations are explicitly forbidden by the law of Moses in writing. This is the same moral code that is the basis of most of the world’s criminal justice systems.

    This claim is demonstrably false, has been demonstrated to be false numerous times, and frankly bores me. Any chance you’ll provide some justification for your claims from outside the bible, for once?

  • http://www.maulis.com Ben Maulis

    OMGF, my point was that Sharia and the Talmud are not scripture. They are man’s extension to Islamic and Jewish scripture respectively. The foundation of Judaism is the Torah not the Talmud. Jesus preached against the kind of things that later comprised the Talmud.

    Polly and Mrnaglfar argue that a law cannot be justified by its pedigree but that law must be justified by its effect on humans. Nevertheless the original post tried to discredit the law based on its lack of pedigree — claiming it was a result of modern imagination.

  • Christopher

    Ben Maulis,

    “Nevertheless the original post tried to discredit the law based on its lack of pedigree — claiming it was a result of modern imagination”

    I could care less how ancient or modern this “law” is – it’s still a product of human imagination and nothing more. To me, it’s one more arbitrary dictum to step on and kick to curb.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    OMGF, my point was that Sharia and the Talmud are not scripture. They are man’s extension to Islamic and Jewish scripture respectively.

    And they sort of prove the point Ebon made in the OP don’t they?

    Besides, scripture always must be interpreted. How is your interpretation any better than theirs? And, how is your religion any better? If you want to specifically talk about gay marriage, how is your stance on it any better that it came arbitrarily from god? That you can interpret passages in your holy book to say that a gay person’s happiness is abhorent to god makes it better how exactly?

  • Polly

    @Ben Maulis,

    Nevertheless the original post tried to discredit the law based on its lack of pedigree — claiming it was a result of modern imagination.

    If your intent was merely to correct the false implication that only “modern” Christians believe homosexuality is a crime then I agree.
    Jews and their scions, the Christians and the Muslims, were gay-bashers(literally) from the very beginning.

  • valhar2000

    Ben Maulis:

    Nevertheless the original post tried to discredit the law based on its lack of pedigree — claiming it was a result of modern imagination.

    No, it didn’t. If you read the post more carefully you will see Ebonmuse was refering specifically to gay marriage. And if you take into account the whole post, and the context it sets up for that example, you will realize that the main thrust of his criticism is that all the examples of “imaginary crimes” he brings up are actions or ideas that do not cause harm to any real people.

    Discussions about the history of the Talmud, the Torah, the Quran or The Big Book Of Children’s Names are entirely irrelevant to this. Therefore, your argument qualifies as a Red Herring.

  • Nurse Ingrid

    “And also interesting that someone mentioned the disgust associated with anal sex (which, presumably, lesbians don’t practice–and thus negating this as the source for the aversion to homosexuality), considering the article recently linking disgust with strong moral reactions.”

    Mr. Pendent,

    This may shock you, but some lesbians do have anal sex. So, for that matter, do many straight people — including abstinence-brainwashed teens who are deluded enough to think that it “doesn’t count” as sex.

    Personally, I think homophobia is complex and multifactorial. I blame organized religion for a hefty chunk of it, but I have certainly encountered homophobic atheists and agnostics in my life, so I don’t think that’s all there is to it. Some of it is probably just plain old misogyny and rigid thinking. You know, perceiving gay men as trying to be like women, resenting lesbians for not “needing” men, freaking out about bisexuals and transgender folks because they make gender a blurry concept. Or something weird like that. Some people just find the very idea of sexual freedom deeply scary.

  • Nurse Ingrid

    I should clarify, though, that certain straight men are quite amusingly obsessive and phobic about the merest mention of anal sex, which is definitely a factor that contributes to some of the ugliest and most vitriolic anti-gay attitudes.

    As Margaret Cho says, “Queen, please.”

    (translation: “The lady doth protest too much.”)

  • heliobates

    These rules are true for dogs, monkeys, humans and just about any other creature. When you start to see things like political ideologies, religions and regionalities in a somewhat biological sense, many of the other laws that we as a society have adopted make perfect sense.

    Ahem

    Don’t let anything like facts stand in the way of a good prejudice.

  • goyo

    Ben Maulis:

    Homosexual relations are explicitly forbidden by the law of Moses in writing. This is the same moral code that is the basis of most of the world’s criminal justice systems.

    The penalty for homosexual relations are also explicitly written in the law of moses: death.
    Do you believe that homosexuals should be killed?
    Yes or no.

  • http://www.maulis.com Ben Maulis

    Goyo, I think your question is facetious, but I’m glad you asked. I doubt that you really care what I believe, unless I claimed to believe they should be killed. That would satisfy you that I am a malicious zealot and you could dismiss me to your own condemnation.

    I do believe the word of God, but that same word that I believe testifies that the word is spirit and life. The word also tells us that the letter kills but the spirit gives life. That’s really an amazing thing to anyone willing to consider it. I know there are a lot of readers that would like to dismiss anything spiritual, but I also know that leaves them with only a dim view of life.

    Consider that the letter of a word kills, but the spirit of the same word gives life. When man works with the letter of the word to develop systems of theology, his result is a killing machine. That’s what you want me to reveal my theology to be, isn’t it? That is perhaps because all who have ever gone before proved to be thieves and liars come to kill, steal, and destroy. What if instead what I believe was life and life abundantly?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Oh Mr. Maulis, you walked right into that one, because you only saw one side of the predicament you put yourself into.

    Yes, if you said that homosexuals should be killed, it would reveal you and your religion to be violent and immoral.

    Instead you took the other route where you disregarded the writings of your own god and made your religion irrelevant. So, when you say that you believe the word of god, what you really meant to say was that you only believe the stuff that you already, personally agree with. Killing homos is messy business and you’re not into that, even though your god is, so you simply make up some rationalization for why the plain words written in your god’s book don’t need to be followed, even though you were earlier crowing about how your god’s book forbids homosexual relations. Surely you can see the logical problem that you find yourself in right now, can’t you?

  • heliobates

    but I also know that leaves them with only a dim view of life.

    How do you know this?

  • goyo

    Ben:
    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand your answer.

    Consider that the letter of a word kills, but the spirit of the same word gives life. When man works with the letter of the word to develop systems of theology, his result is a killing machine.

    We have the supposed word of god, saying that people are not supposed to engage in homosexual acts, which you take literally. Then the same god says that they are to be killed as punishment, which you want to spiritualize.

    I do believe the word of God, but that same word that I believe testifies that the word is spirit and life. The word also tells us that the letter kills but the spirit gives life. That’s really an amazing thing to anyone willing to consider it. I know there are a lot of readers that would like to dismiss anything spiritual, but I also know that leaves them with only a dim view of life.

    Are you saying that the O.T. commandments are to be viewed as spiritual suggestions, instead of literal commandments?

    What if instead what I believe was life and life abundantly?

    Yes, I’ve heard that before. It does not erase the words written before in the O.T., which still order the death penalty for a variety of crimes.
    And yes, I care what you believe, because it is always interesting to hear the ways people try and fit obvious scriptures with their interpretations, and then inflict those interpretations on society as to how we should live our lives.

  • http://www.maulis.com Ben Maulis

    OMGF, I’m sorry to disappoint you but I did not fail to see the loaded question. You just assumed that because the question was loaded, I would have no option but to answer one of your two ways.

    The Pharisees supposed that they had Jesus the same way. “They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”

    Now if we replace the act of adultery with a homosexual act, isn’t that exactly what you are doing here by asking me, “what sayest thou?”

    Like you, the Pharisees supposed that they had Jesus trapped because he would be forced to condemn the woman mercilessly or disregard the law.

    Does Jesus’s answer consist of “spiritualizing” the law of Moses? Absolutely not. My answer also testifies to the fact the God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world but that through him the world might be saved. “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save [them].”

  • goyo

    Ben Maulis:
    So are you saying that all those millenia before jesus, when god’s people were stoning violators of the law, they were wrong?
    Poor, misunderstanding, misguided bastards. If only god had properly instructed them that his laws were spiritual, not literal, those homos and stick-picker-uppers would have lived.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Ben,

    Allow me to try and point it out for you again; you said:

    Homosexual relations are explicitly forbidden by the law of Moses in writing. This is the same moral code that is the basis of most of the world’s criminal justice systems.

    So you’re stating you believe that the bible’s moral code is right on when it forbids homosexual relationships for no expressed purpose other than “the bible says it”. However, the second part of that sentence in the bible that says it merits the punishment of death you disregard because you don’t seem to agree with. You don’t get to decide which parts of the bible are figurative and which parts literal that quickly, just like I can’t go into traffic court with a speeding ticket and say “I know the law says speeding is against the law, but when the law says that I should be fined for speeding it doesn’t really mean you should fine it; it’s metaphorical”.

  • http://www.maulis.com Ben Maulis

    Goyo, the word of God does indeed tell us the wages of sin is death, but we cannot ignore that it also gives us the qualifications for the one who carries out the execution. Now you might say, “If God is the only one qualified to execute his judgment, why does he give the commandment?”

    The word of God not only tells us the wages of sin is death, but also that all have sinned. Now some suppose that because all humans are guilty, they therefore deserve death. It makes no difference whether you’re a homosexual or not, they say “everyone deserves death.”

    According to such a doctrine, man is so sinful that God is right in destroying him not only by calamity, but is also justified in casting his soul into everlasting torment. No doubt this is the epitome of violent and immoral religion for OMGF, and I suppose Goyo wonders if these believe such depths of man’s wickedness are in transgression of the law, why is there such a lapse in human justice? How could they tolerate sending their children among them whose works they consider worthy of calamity and whom they esteem as deserving everlasting torment? I suppose that is what you mean by how they “inflict [their] interpretations on society as to how we should live our lives.”

    There were some people who told Jesus about the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, “Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” He also mentioned the eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and slew them, and said the same thing.

    Now some would say, “See! Everyone is deserving a tragic and calamitous death.” They use the scriptures to justify their killing machine, their system of theology.

    But what do you suppose? Was Jesus asking of these men repentance of their sins like unto the sins of the Galilaeans and those in Siloam, was he asking for their repentance of unbelief in the gospel, or was he asking repentance of their judgment of condemnation upon those others?

    After these things he gives us a parable of a man seeking fruit on his fig tree and finding none. What fruit do you suppose he was seeking?

    Our own guilt disqualifies us from condemning others, but it does not excuse anyone’s guilt. It points to our need for a Saviour. That is why the commandments your refer to are not erased, but they are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

  • Mrnaglfar

    Ben,

    So if this god character is going to judge everyone, and everyone is deserving of death and torture to him, why would he even bother writing laws and moral codes into the bible? Why even bother listing punishments, since they all seem to be the same; die and suffer forever or believe in Jesus, because for whatever unknown reason, belief in Jesus is very, very important. He couldn’t just forgive us; he had to die for our sins to forgive a grudge he holds. It doesn’t end there however;no, that would be too easy. You need to believe he did, because without that belief that he did, what was the point of him doing it in the first place, right?

    That aside, back to the main point; why not simply make the bible a long list of things you can do to be deserving of hell unless you believe in Jesus, starting with being born, to having sex, to planting different crops in the same field, to eatting certain animals, working on the wrong day, having gay sex, having straight sex outside marriage for any purpose outside children, lying, and so on down the line? There shouldn’t be any need to add physical punishments for the acts if people aren’t allowed to judge others for them and if that god person is going to take care of it anyway. Or, you could look at the bible as merely a list of things some men in the desert wrote a few thousand years agos who didn’t know about the world, and was used as method of control in order to try and give a justifaction for one group’s moral code under the guise of “it’s god’s will”.

    Which makes more sense?

  • http://www.maulis.com Ben Maulis

    Mrnaglfar, I have not disregarded any word of God. Not one jot or tittle. You quoted me, “Homosexual relations are explicitly forbidden by the law of Moses in writing.” Is that my belief or is it a fact? Why then do you suppose to tell me what I believe?

  • http://www.maulis.com Ben Maulis

    Goyo, Christ coming in the flesh was not the first time God had rebuked his people for hypocrisy, their vicious and merciless judgments, and oppression of the weak and poor. He was continually sending them prophets that said the same thing, whom they slew.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Ben,

    I don’t presume to put words into your mouth, just pointing out your inconsistencies. So you tell me; do you believe that homosexuality is wrong and why or why not?

  • http://www.maulis.com Ben Maulis

    “Do you believe that homosexuality is wrong and why or why not?”

    Before I tell you what I believe, let’s commit some facts. According to the scriptures, homosexuality is sin. Jesus said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” As it is written, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”

    According to the scriptures, how then did God deal with his people in former times that had been made slaves? It was by a strong hand that the Lord led his people out of Egypt.

    [long, tedious sermon that does not address the question deleted —Ebonmuse]

  • Alex Weaver

    So, um, your answer to the original question?

  • http://kaltrosomos.livejournal.com/ Kaltrosomos

    Ben, you seem to be avoiding the point.

    You said that men shouldn’t condemn other men based on the laws in the old testament, since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Let the one without sin cast the first stone, is the gist of what Jesus said right?

    So that implies that no human should judge any other human, since we are all guilty. Thus, all the judging should be left to God. And this seems to mean that humans shouldn’t have any laws whatsoever, since we are not in a position to make them. Instead, we should leave that to God.

    If that’s what you mean, aren’t you being inconsistent arguing for the correctness of one method of living over another? How do you know that you aren’t merely endorsing another human invention, and that you are no better than the pharisees? Why not leave everything to God?

  • goyo

    Ben:
    So getting back to the original question. Do the penalties attached to the commandments mean anything?
    I can’t believe you refuse to answer a simple yes or no question.
    Please stop the preaching.

  • heliobates

    Before I tell you what I believe, let’s commit some facts.

    Is anyone else still waiting for facts?

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet.html J

    There is only one explanation why people are not willing to repent: because they love unrighteousness more than righteousness.

    No. It could also just as easily be that the things you keep telling people are sins are, in fact, not sins. I have a hard time–impossible really–connecting any feeling of “sinfulness”, to the lives led by the two pairs of lesbian women I know. No, I’m not interested in the chapter and verse of the bible that tells me how wrong I am. I’m with Huck Finn: If believing what I believe and doing what I do is wrong then fine; I’ll go to hell.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Ben Maulis, let me emphasize this again: This site is not a place for you to preach at us. If you want to have a serious discussion, you are welcome to stay and contribute. If you’re only seeking excuses to insert as many Bible quotes as possible into your comments, then you will be disinvited. Please address the question that has been put to you.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    OMGF, I’m sorry to disappoint you but I did not fail to see the loaded question. You just assumed that because the question was loaded, I would have no option but to answer one of your two ways.

    Except you did fall into one of the prongs of the question.

    The Pharisees supposed that they had Jesus the same way. “They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”

    You do realize that story was added to the Bible well after the fact, don’t you? It’s not part of the original writing. Of course, you can act like you answered like Jesus did, but the truth is you didn’t. At best, you can claim that you avoided answering the question, thus you would still be faced with actually answering it.

    Now if we replace the act of adultery with a homosexual act, isn’t that exactly what you are doing here by asking me, “what sayest thou?”

    And you answered that god’s word doesn’t need to be followed when you personally disagree with it, and now you are stonewalling.

    My answer also testifies to the fact the God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world but that through him the world might be saved. “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save [them].”

    How modest of you. Problem is, you aren’t god. god laid down rules that you seem to think are just fine and dandy, that homosexuality is wrong. god also told you what you should do about it and you are turning up your nose at that claiming that god’s laws don’t need to be followed afterall. So, which is it?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Goyo, the word of God does indeed tell us the wages of sin is death, but we cannot ignore that it also gives us the qualifications for the one who carries out the execution.

    Actually, no, that’s not true. In the law of Moses, it commands the children of Israel to put offenders to death, not to wait for god to do it.

    According to such a doctrine, man is so sinful that God is right in destroying him not only by calamity, but is also justified in casting his soul into everlasting torment. No doubt this is the epitome of violent and immoral religion for OMGF…

    And it isn’t for you?!?!?!?!

  • heliobates

    Christ coming in the flesh was not the first time God had rebuked his people for hypocrisy, their vicious and merciless judgments, and oppression of the weak and poor. He was continually sending them prophets that said the same thing, whom they slew.

    It’s like watching a blindfolded man staggering across a rake-strewn yard.

    I know I should do something about this, but I can’t look away!

    Ben, your pseudo-surname has been aptly chosen. The rake that just broke your nose is called “The Problem of Evil” in most circles.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Mr. Maulis had a good point about the difference between the Torah and the Talmud (my bad for mixing them up) but another question has come to mind…

    If you (Mr. Maulis) are going to complain that the Talmud is not holy because it is just the musings of rabbis, then why can’t the same complaint be made of the NT? Maybe one could make the argument that the gospels could be the word of god since they supposedly come from Jesus (an argument that hinges on ignorance of the dates of writing and other issues with the sources) but certainly not the rest of it. Paul’s letters, for instance, are basically the same as the thoughts in the Talmud, are they not?

  • Brainwoman

    Mr. Maulis, I have trouble with the morals, intentions and intelligence of the god person that you describe and appear to worship.

    His/its behaviour falls far short of the behaviour expected of today’s compassionate and educated person. The only explanation for the mismatch between reality and the reports is that the reputed characteristics of this god person cannot be all correct. He/it cannot be similtaneously all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving and all-wise without also suffering from some kind of cognitive, development or mental impairment.

    If your god person had foresight he/it would realize that the words he/it dictated to the Torah scribes would be variously interpreted and misinterpreted throughout the ages. An intelligent and benevolent god person would have made sure that his earthly son was also omniscient or at least literate. Or he could have provided his peasant son with enough intelligence to chose disciples who were. Providing a clear record of god-teaching wouldn’t have taken a miracle. All it needed was a bit of foresight and intelligent thinking. And possibly a lawyer.

    Which raises another problem with your story. The Jesus character was supposedly half man and half god. He clearly lacked some of the characteristics which you ascribe to a god person, such as a failure of omniscience which included lack of the ability to write. According to the people who did get around to writing what he said down he lacked complete knowledge of what his divine father person wrote in the Talmud as he gets the quote wrong. The problem is that there is no way to know what parts of this half-god person’s message comes from the omniscient god part and what comes from the fallible man part. So even if he or his disciples had written his preaching down word for word there would be no guarantee that it was god-perfect.

    In comparison, Mohammed did a better job. He claimed that his revelations were dictated directly by an angel who did not have the problem of being half-human. Then he used his intelligence to find and persuade some literate people to write it all down.

    Unfortunately the Koran is also subject to problems of multiple and changing interpretations by every human who reads it.

    In the final analysis neither the Yaweh god nor the Allah god (or the composite god) were intelligent enough to avoid the killing and human suffering which resulted from an ambiguous document.

    This leaves us with the conclusion (no doubt unpalatable to you) that he/it/they were at least one of the following: stupid, unwise, ignorant, immature, personality disordered, immoral or sadistic. The alternative explanation is that the god person concept is a socially sanctioned but man-made fabrication or delusion I guess you won’t like that conclusion any better.

    The bottom line is that your line of reasoning makes no sense when carried through. This does not reflect well on what might well be an excellent intellect when you apply it to concepts which exist in the real world.

  • Brainwoman

    Whoops. I should have proof-read that post better. “Talmad” should read “Torah”. “Development” should be “developmental”. There is a period/full-stop missing in the last sentence of the penultimate paragraph.

  • http://www.ateosmexicanos.com/portal/ Juan Felipe

    “Uno de los atributos fundamentales de las religiones del mundo es que suelen crear crímenes imaginarios; esto es, normas arbitrarias cuyo desacato no lastima realmente a ninguna persona y que no tiene ninguna conexión con aspectos de la vida diaria…”

    http://www.ateosmexicanos.com/portal/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=88:crimenes-imaginarios&catid=34:articulos&Itemid=61