‘Suffer the children’ indeed, a biblical precept

By Annie Laurie Gaylor
Co-founder and co-president
Freedom From Religion Foundation

As the unbelievable continues to happen in the United States of America — our federal government separating refugees at our south border from their children — it should come as no surprise to learn that the White House justifies its policy based on the bible.

As FFRF has pointed out, the verse from the Book of Romans cited by Attorney General Jeff Sessions of course has nothing to do with a government body kidnapping children from illegal or unprocessed immigrants. It is just one of countless “might equals right” passages and commandments teaching blind obedience to deity and to authority. The passage quoted by Sessions was previously quoted by slaveholders to force submission by enslaved peoples.

One of the bible verses that most offends me is found in the next chapter, Romans 14:11: “Every knee shall bow, And every tongue shall confess to God.” The biblical deity is a dictator. (Or should we say deities: “Father, Son and Holy Ghost”?) No wonder the White House approves of invoking the bible for its policies.

It’s appalling and frightening to see the bible being invoked explicitly as the rationale for a callous governmental policy. The Religious Right for years has spread the Big Lie that the United States is a “Christian nation,” rather than a secular republic predicated on a godless Constitution. The human rights crisis shows so clearly why it’s vital to keep the bible out of our laws and resist public officials who keep alive the myth that our nation is founded on a god or any so-called holy book.

​The ugly and horrifying misuse of governmental authority, based on supposed biblical principles, offers the perfect occasion to take a closer look at the suffering of children in the bible, with its  many commandments to discipline, hurt, oppress and even kill them. Why would anyone want to base our laws on such a book?

Nobody analyzes the bible’s treatment of children better than Ruth Hurmence Green, author of The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible, published by FFRF. Part II of The Guide is “The Book of Ruth,” a series of ever-timely essays about the book that Ruth termed a “behavioral grab bag.”

Suffer the children to Suffer 
By Ruth Hurmence Green
Author, The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible

“Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” Psalms 13 7:9

The bible is fertile ground for all who might wish, for any reason, to employ extreme severity if not actual abuse, in the treatment of children. Adults who want to beat children find no reason to refrain from corporal punishment when they go to the scriptures, and they are even instructed to whip them mercilessly. One irate parent or guardian with a bible is all it takes to inflict pain to the point of death upon an unruly or “stubborn” child: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” Proverbs 23:13-14

But, as history books and modern newspapers attest, many children have died, especially when the bible-inspired beating was performed by the reader who turned to Proverbs 20:30: “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.” An ungentle Dr. Spock of Proverbs is responsible for “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land,” etc. (Ex. 20:12), was to be taken literally. Honor was to be bestowed, not because it had been earned, but to save the child’s very life. Not only were smiting and cursing capital offenses when perpetrated against a parent, but should children be stubborn or espouse a “false doctrine,” fathers and mothers were to stone them to death or run them through with a sword. At one time a “stubborn child” statute in Massachusetts evolved from this Mosaic law.

Because Jesus upheld the Mosaic Law by “every jot and title,” saying that it would “never fail,” and because the bible is being advocated these days as the basis for legislation in our country, it is important to become familiar with all of this “Good Book.” In the area of child abuse, there is much to learn.

At the very heart of Christianity itself is the pagan superstition that the gods must be appeased with the dearest and best, and ultimately the human sacrifice of the firstborn son. Such sacrifices are required by the Old Testament of the bible and are played out in the person of Jesus as the Son who is killed to placate God.

Children as human sacrifices are not strangers to the bible, possibly because the scriptures make it clear that they are necessary. Everyone who has ever been to Sunday School knows about the “beautiful Bible story” of Abraham and Isaac, in which the Lord orders a father to make a human sac­rifice of his dearest son. Although God is satisfied this time simply with Abraham’s willingness to slit Isaac’s throat (Gen. 22:1-4), he makes Jephthah actually burn his daughter as an offering of thanks for victory in battle. Judges I I:30-40

Instances of kings and warriors using their children as human sacrifices horrify any sensitive bible reader, and the mass slaughters of children by the Lord as he wreaks his vengeance on the heathen and the backsliders make one wonder how it is possible to carry a bible without getting the blood of children on the hands. God’s brimstone, floodwaters, plagues, famines, and pestilences take a grisly toll of the innocent, and when his vengeful famines continue so long that women boil their children for food, he still has to be persuaded to end them.

There is not one instance in the bible wherein the Lord ever spares a child in the commission of all these atrocities and in the conquests which he directs and masterminds through his bloodthirsty servants, Moses and Joshua. The Lord’s orders are always worded in such a way that the meaning is crystal clear: “Thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.” Deuteronomy 20:16 And “Slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.” I Samuel 15:3 On the few occasions when he seemed to spare children, they were female babies, and young girls who were still virgins, for the enjoyment of the priests and captains. Numbers 31:18

Children in the Bible are also made to “pass through the fire,” a purification rite echoed in New Testament theology which finds Jesus baptizing with the Holy Ghost and with fire. And his own birth came about in such a way that all boy babies under two living in Bethlehem and all the coasts were put to the sword. Or so the bible tells us.

But it becomes too heart-rending to proceed. Suffice it to notice only in passing: the two bears which God sends to tear 42 children to pieces for teas­ing a prophet; the innumerable times when children pay for the sins of the fathers; the heirs who are killed by their brothers and grandmothers to insure the throne; the lions who break the bones of children; and the times children are seduced and sold by their brothers, eaten by their parents, buried alive, raped, beheaded, enslaved, and abandoned. The sheer inhumanity of the bible would make a hardened adult shudder, and yet this book is put into the hands of children who will find their counterparts victimized on page after page.

Young people may find it enlightening to discover the bible’s strange conception of parental love when they read that Job is wonderfully content to have his first set of children replaced by a second brood of seven sons and three daughters, after the original siblings were all crushed by God to test Job’s loyalty. They may become alarmed at the words of Jesus which promise rewards for all who abandon their families:

“There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold . . . ” Mark 10:29-30

Anyone who is not yet convinced of the inhumanity of the bible towards children should turn to the threats which are a great part of the 28th to 32nd chapters of Deuteronomy, which for their fierceness are not matched in any other literary volume, and to the books of the prophets, whose sadism comes from the mouth of the Lord.

From Deuteronomy and Jeremiah alone, one will be treated to such unfeeling intentions of God concerning the young as: “The sword without and the terror within, shall destroy … the suckling.” Deut. 32:25
And “Their sons and daughters shall die by the famine.” ]er. 11:2
And “I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together.” Jer. 13:14 And “I will bereave them of children.” ]er. 15:7
And “I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters.” ]er. 19:9
And “Her daughters shall be burned with fire.” ]er. 49:2 And “Thou art my battle ax and my weapons of war, for with thee will I break in pieces old and young.” ]er.15:20
And “Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes.” Is. 13:16
These children whom God is going to dash to pieces include infants:
“Their infants shall be dashed to pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.” Hosea 13:16 And no illegitimate child has any hope of salvation, according to this same prophet, whose God told him that “I will not have mercy upon her children, for they are the children of whoredoms.” Hosea 2:4
There is much more. One can only wonder how religious proselytizers can ban books from libraries under the auspices of protecting their children, while handing them that most fearsome and bloody of books, the bible.

(For even more gruesome details, and all the biblical passages, read Dan Barker’s chapter on infanticide in his book: “GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction.)

This blog is a part of FFRF’s new Bible Accountability Project.

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