If you've already read another part of this, you can skip the introduction.
Is the God of the Bible an immoral egotistical arrogant tyrant in his prejudiced demands to be worshiped as the one true God and his condemnation of those who worship other gods? Is he an insanely angry bigot? Crueller than the cruellest earthly dictator in his bloodlust and hatred and barbaric desire for killing and violence? A ruthless baby and child killer? Bursting into enraged childish temper tantrums at the most minor provocation and inflicting deadly punishments on people for trivial offences? Is the Bible a malicious and intolerant book of hate literature which should be treated with contempt by anyone with an ounce of compassion because it incites irrational acts of barbarity? Did it directly incite the "burning times" when Christians in their supposed zeal for biblical commands tortured and killed anyone accused of being a witch? These are all charges commonly brought against the God of the Bible and the Bible itself by many sceptics, with similar vehemence as that just displayed. Are they true?
If you're feeling a bit depressed or anxious today, you may find some of the content on some of the pages here particularly upsetting. Section 1 of this website contains self-help articles that it might be best to visit first. Topics covered include depression, serious worry, panic attacks, phobias and OCD, marriage problems, raising difficult teenagers, self-harm, anorexia, grief, bullying and teasing, coping with a life-threatening illness, and recovery from rape. You can find them here: Free Self-Help to Recover From or Cope With Some Problems.
Note: This series is entirely unsuitable for children. Part of it contains passages of violence and sickening descriptions of cruelty from the news that many might find offensive and distressing. In fact, I recommend that this is only read by the most insistent Bible critics and the Christians most disturbed by the allegations!
Part of the series contains quotations from several news stories. When reading about the harsh way the Bible says God punished the people in his anger, it's easy to get a very one-sided impression of an enraged God pouring vengeance on a people who were actually living fairly decent lives. Although it's true that it indicates that the punishments were to a large extent non-discriminatory and so innocent people would undoubtedly have suffered, the impression the Bible gives is that the societies the punishments were inflicted on were corrupt to the core - societies where violence, murder, ruthless oppression of the vulnerable, sexual abuse and several other varieties of sin were rampant! And according to the Bible, these were societies that refused to police themselves! The quotations from the news stories, though discussing incidents that took place in a different era, that were of course committed by others, and perhaps often in different ways, are meant to bring home to people the kind of impact such crimes would have had on the many victims suffering such things in those societies, and the depths to which societies can stoop. The idea is that they can help people imagine the kind of thing the Bible says was going on in the biblical societies threatened with God's punishment. Thus, the punishments the Bible says were inflicted on the societies in Old Testament times that behaved in such a manner will seem less unjust to the open-minded.
It may be that some of the stories describe things which vary considerably from what was going on then and may be much worse, but apart from anything else, they will be a corrective to the assumption that certain practices must have been harmless, such as the worship of other gods and occult practices, and also a corrective to any glib refusal to take any provocation into account when declaring the God of the Bible truly unjust.
In fact, it seems it's people who persistently commit just such violent and unscrupulous acts that the Old Testament was written for. A New Testament passage claims that certain Old Testament punishments were meant as examples/warnings for future generations not to do evil things. It may be that many who won't be convinced to stop catastrophically harming others by declarations of the love of Jesus and beautiful passages meant to inspire people to do good, as can be found in the New Testament, can be scared into stopping by the descriptions of punishments being meted out to wrongdoers that fill the Old Testament.
The links to the news stories are not provided, because of the high possibility that many will soon be broken. To read the articles in full, you can put the names of the titles or a distinctive phrase from the story you'd like to read more of in quotes in Google, and if it's still somewhere on the Internet, you'll probably find it.
I found it very distasteful to put the quotations from the stories together, but felt compelled to do so because of the virulence of the accusations with which the God of the Bible is condemned by some, and the potential that this could cause Christians to lose their joy in Christianity, and to doubt or lose their faith, - although perhaps some belong to a toxic brand of Christianity that would make losing their faith a good thing. I know of people who say they were once Christians, but who lost their faith in disgust when they learned about the cruelty allegedly inflicted by God in Old Testament times. Some will go on to frequently express strong feelings of contemptuous anti-Christian hostility. A greater knowledge of the provocation that the Bible indicates led to the harsh Old Testament punishments may lead people to a greater understanding of why they were considered necessary, though they seem severe whatever the provocation!
Some food for thought can be had if one considers that every single one of the atrocities reported in the news articles quoted on these pages would not have been committed by anyone who was genuinely dedicated to following biblical Christianity. And every one of the people committing them would stop doing such things if they discovered a new beginning in becoming committed to biblical Christianity. Any atrocities committed in its name have been committed despite what the Bible says, not because of it. To prove it, here are some links to Bible quotations informing Christians on the way they should behave, which not only prohibit such atrocities as the ones described in the news articles quoted here, but indicate that Christians should abide by much higher standards of behaviour. Promoting Christianity, seen as dangerous by some, could actually be at least a partial solution to the world's problems. Whole communities have in the past turned from warlike activity when they have become Christians and started following ideals for the Christian lifestyle like the ones found in the quotations here:
Some people may have been exposed to a brand of Christianity that makes it difficult for them to believe Christianity could be a power for good. But a reading of those quotes will prove that it is benign. Any group that promotes an unhealthy doctrine may well be distorting what the Bible actually says. Here's an example of how it can be done:
Therefore, those who make it their mission to try determinedly to pull the Bible apart by rooting out as many alleged petty contradictions as they can, defaming the God of the Bible as immoral, doing their determined best to convince people that Jesus never existed, and denigrating Christians as delusional and unthinking, etc. are in effect, though probably mostly unwittingly, aiming to destroy something beautiful, something that can be a powerful force for good in the right hands. Christianity can give people a brand new vision of life, offer them a brand new start, feeling that their record of wrongdoing has been wiped clean in God's eyes so they can learn to love themselves, see themselves as worthwhile, and thus can see a point in starting again with renewed dedication to living a good life.
Naturally, other interventions can give people new hope and raise their self-esteem. But Christianity is one with widespread appeal that shouldn't be dismissed.
When people feel God has forgiven them, it doesn't mean, as some would slanderously claim, that they no longer have a responsibility to try to make amends as far as possible for what they did. On the contrary, the Christian faith can often inspire people to do just that, where they had no interest in doing so before.
It can inspire people to transform their behaviour, or stop their behaviour degenerating into behaviour that would hurt others in the first place, partly because they can feel responsible to God - a higher authority they respect enough to want to obey - for the way they live, and not just accountable to themselves. The Christian faith can give them hope for the future, and security and confidence that they are loved by someone greater than themselves, God. The increase in self-worth this can bring can give people the motivation to treat others better. People who believe they are valued can be more likely to be respectful of others and thus less likely to mistreat them.
Christianity can give people a sense of belonging and identity, as a wonderful alternative to the sense of belonging and identity they may have previously sought in gangs or warlike nationalism etc.
It can give them meaning and purpose in life, in that the Bible urges Christians to spend their lives doing good. A sense of meaning and purpose in life can bring a sense of satisfaction that can strengthen people's desire to carry on what they're doing, and if they're doing productive things instead of ones that make them angry and hateful, it can be especially so. Thus, meaning and purpose derived from doing good has its own rewards, and thus can strengthen the desire people may have to continue to do so, and can replace the meaning and purpose gained from belonging to destructive causes, as well as the opposite of meaning - the sense of disillusionment with life that can lead to living selfishly and callously.
Falling in love with the character of Jesus as portrayed by the gospels can bring a desire to please him; and a belief that he loves them so much he was even willing to die so their sin could be cleansed can bring a deep gratitude which will strengthen the desire to please him. Thus, it can bring a heartfelt commitment to obeying his commands. The commands in the New Testament, such as those to live peaceful lives of non-violence and to care for others, are said to be Christ's commands. Thus, falling in love with the character of Christ as portrayed in the gospels can transform a person's attitude and lead them to lives of goodness.
Reflection on the New Testament commands can also give people cause to stop and think, and a desire to inquire into the reasons for the commands; and their reflection on the reasons for them can lead to a deeper conviction of the wisdom of many commands, which can subsequently lead to a deeper commitment to following them.
The sense of being loved by God and the Bible's imploring of people to love one another in practical ways can soften a person's attitudes, making them contemplate the way they're living and changing their mind-set from one of hatred or cruel indifference to people around them and a consequent wish to harm or use them, to a desire to do things to benefit them.
Belief that one is accountable to God for the way one lives can be a check on people's natural desire to live for themselves when they want to put their own desires above the needs or welfare of others because their desires are strong.
Belief in God's punishment can sober a person and make their commitment to obey Christ's commands to live lives of non-violence and caring more serious, since they can bring realisation that Christianity is a serious commitment, not a fashion accessory, a tradition, or something merely to be played with while in reality behaving as one wishes.
Naturally, turning to Christianity won't always have such wholesome effects, by any means; but it's more likely to do so where there is a focus on the guidelines for Christian behaviour linked to above, and a focus on making positive improvements in life rather than getting bogged down in the idea of guilt for sin, or in some minor doctrine taken out of balance with the whole.
It's true that there are passages in the Bible where it says God orders incidents of what can appear barbaric merciless violence. Some are not so abhorrent as a superficial reading without knowledge of the cultural practices of the day might suggest, but some certainly are. Most, if not all, can be matched, however, by the cruelty of many of the people the violence was inflicted on. Thus, we have the reciprocity principle in action. The violence was mostly said to be punishment for such wrongdoing, deterrents to prevent such cruelty and crime in the future, and chastisement to spur people to change their ways. Therefore, harsh though the punishments were, and though it's easy and perhaps highly reasonable to argue that they were far worse than any society could possibly have deserved, it can be argued that they were by no means wholly unjustified, and they were far more than the simple actions of a vindictive petty God having brutal temper tantrums in an insane, violently angry rage, as is so often charged.
If you would prefer a less squeamishness-making article, you could read: An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.
In the Bible, God is recorded as having instructed the people of Israel through Moses that anyone enticing them to worship other gods was to be put to death, even if they were a close family member, and any city whose residents all turned to the worship of other gods was to be fought and destroyed. Horrendous, undoubtedly! But should we simply conclude that this was just bigotry and egotism? In modern Western societies, the worship of other gods might seem a benign activity done by gentle reverent nature-lovers. How true this is is open to debate, but can we safely conclude that this was always the case? ...
In ancient times, it's fairly certain that in the majority of cultures, gruesome and harmful practices often accompanied the worship of other gods, such as human sacrifice. Thus, killing the worshipers of other gods would have been in effect inflicting the death penalty for either murder or aiding and abetting murder.
From an article called Human Sacrifice from the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia:
"... It was especially common among agricultural people (e.g., in the ancient Near East), who sought to guarantee the fertility of the soil. The Aztecs sacrificed thousands of victims (often slaves or prisoners of war) annually to the sun, and the Incas made human sacrifices on the accession of a ruler. In ancient Egypt and elsewhere in Africa, ..."
Human sacrifice is still going on in some cultures. To give some examples of the types of practices:
From a news article entitled Human Sacrifice to Appease Gods Continues in Nigeria First published by The News, Lagos, 6 May 2002:
"A community in Igboland still sacrifices human beings to appease the gods, long years after the tradition was outlawed in Nigeria. ...
The town has idols notoriously called Ezugu and Odo, the gods of war which are still appeased by their worshippers, with the blood of human beings. At the last count, 32 skulls have been recovered by the police. ...
No deity or shrine in Neke admits the skull of an indigene of the community. As a result, aspiring initiates comb neighbouring communities for human heads. There have been instances whereby such aspiring indigenes living in the urban area lured unsuspecting friends to their community only to behead them for the purposes of procuring their skulls.
A member of the Odo cult is authorised to possess as many human skulls as he has the ability to procure. In fact, acquisition of human skulls is a status symbol in Neke. A man's prestige and reputation are measured by the number of human skulls he has procured and deposited at the Ezugu or Odo deity. One of the priests of Odo deity who has now gone blind was said to be in the habit of sacrificing a human skull to the Ezugu deity each time any of his numerous wives had a baby. Indeed, procurement of human skulls is big business in Neke. ...
Besides this, the people of Neke are widely believed to serve as mercenaries in procurement of human skulls for communities in need of them (the skulls) for ritual practices such as burial ceremonies of prominent indigenes. Such burials in some parts of Igbo land require human heads, and Neke people, proficient in the art, are reportedly invited to comb forests for human heads. As the Neke human head mercenaries work for their clients, they equally use the opportunity to procure their own human skulls for enhancement of their individual status in Neke. This practice, according to a one time devotee of Odo deity, is still on, but with discretion. ...
The scorpion is considered to be a son of the Odo deity. Any woman who kills it is made to bury it like a human being to propitiate the deity. Such burial is performed with a wrapper and a fowl amongst other things. The woman is, of course, visited with instant death if she fails to abide by this cultural practice. ..."
From an article called Where Superstition, Black Magic Thrive in The Hindu, 30 April, 2001:
"RAIPUR, APRIL 29. Illiteracy and social backwardness are believed to be the main factors behind high incidence of human sacrifice and prevalence of black magic in Chhatisgarh.
The highest number of incidents is, perhaps, reported from the State with the recent one being the killing of a young boy in Surajpur village last week. ...
Dr. Mishra, an eye specialist by profession, who has been working in the field for the past several years, says that innocent villagers are tricked by self-proclaimed `babas' by showing their supernatural powers which are nothing but scientific tricks that can be done by any individual. ...
The incidents of human sacrifice and tongue sacrifices increase during March and April and in October and November in the festival season since people believe in making generous offerings to the Gods so that they can be relieved of their problems.
``However, awareness is gradually increasing and villagers themselves inform our organisation whenever there is an incident of this nature,'' he says."
In an article called Priest 'Makes Human Sacrifice', from BBC News, 27 March 2003, it says:
"Police have arrested a village priest in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh for allegedly carrying out a human sacrifice.
The priest, Chandrabhan Singh Lodhi, is accused of sacrificing a low caste Hindu, or Dalit, to please the village goddess in Parsari village of Sagar district. ...
Though human sacrifice has long been banned in India, some people, mostly the poor and illiterate - fall under the influence of witch doctors and black magicians in the hope of reversing their fortunes."
From an article entitled No Human Heads, No Crown from OnlineNigeria (date unknown):
"A quiet revolution is now going on in Owerre Ebeiri community in Orlu local government area of Imo State . Chidi B. Uzomah, a lecturer in Imo State University, Owerri and the new Eze-elect for the community is kicking against ritual killings required by the tradition before he ascends the throne. ...
Newswatch learnt that in the event of the death of the traditional ruler of the community; and the installation of a new one, about 34 human heads - 16 men, 16 women and a set of twins are usually sacrificed to appease the gods.
This, they claim, will enable the dead Eze to have an easy passage and to be acceptable to the ancestors. The community has buried 10 Ezes in its life span and had performed the rituals. But Uzomah would not have any of it.
He claimed that God called him to cleanse the rotten system of the ancestors. He told Newswatch that God anointed him to liberate his people from the bondage of a barbaric culture. “That is why I left my job as dean in an American university where I was making $200,000 per year. When they were burying Ezealaeke, Eze Emenaha, his successor produced 34 human heads. That was the order then.”
In the community, only strangers are killed in the event of the death of the Eze. Before the advent of the whiteman, there existed a slave market which provided the bulk of humans for such sacrifices. After the destruction of the market by the British soldiers following the abolition of slave trade, village warriors were given the task of providing human heads from distant towns and villages. ...
That is not the only battle Uzomah has been waging in the community in the past two years. He refused to worship at the shrines and the temples of the ancestors. Instead, he brought about 10 pastors from the Overcomers Christian Mission, Owerri, to demolish some of the shrines. He said the shrines were used by his people to evoke sickness and unleash terror and mayhem on innocent people of the area. ..."
From an article called Hindus to End Human Sacrifice Practice from the Daily Times, April 2004:
"GUWAHATI: Hundreds of Hindu monks pledged Tuesday to fight ancient barbaric rituals of human sacrifices at temples in India where the grisly practice continues.
“A very miniscule cult still believes that to achieve supernatural magical powers one needs to sacrifice a child at the altar,” Biswajit Giri, a 45-year-old Hindu mystic, told AFP.
“The practice of human sacrifice ... has not died down completely and is being carried out in many select temples secretly.” ...
Earlier this year, two children were sacrificed in the northeastern state of Tripura after a devotee had a dream that offering human livs to the deity would lead him to hidden treasures.
Legend has it that human sacrifices - an integral part of tantricism - were widespread in Assam and other parts of India although the practice was officially abandoned some 250 years.s. ...
Many of the monks who have assembled here from various parts of India and the neighboring Hindu kingdom of Nepal say human sacrifices continue in many places, although such rituals are steeped in secrecy to avoid public gaze and controversy. ..."
Were temple prostitutes always well looked after when they became too old to work? Were they always paid well when they were working? Were they allowed the freedom to be choosy about their customers? Were children forced into it against their will? Was it easy for prostitutes to switch occupations if they didn't like it? Did the children of temple prostitutes have good prospects? Were they generally well looked after while their mothers worked? Did men become unfaithful to their wives who wouldn't have done if the prostitutes weren't there? Were their wives generally upset when their husbands were unfaithful? Was there any kind of adequate protection against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases? Were prostitutes pensioned off when they got diseases so they wouldn't pass them to unfaithful family men who would pass them to their wives, or so they didn't need to work when they were ill? Were they free from sexually transmitted diseases that can eventually kill like cervical cancer and syphilis? Since ritual prostitution appears to have been a fundamental feature of the worship of other gods, even leaving aside the matter of human sacrifice, only if all these questions and more can be answered with moral satisfaction can the God of the Bible be condemned for forbidding the worship of other gods.
Here are some examples from recent times of the effects of the system of ritual prostitution:
From an article called Servants of God by BBC News, 29 June, 2002:
"Lakshmi must have been stunning once - her high, prominent cheek bones and hazel eyes hint at beauty. But that was before she was ravaged by Aids.
Now her body is emaciated - her skin shrivelled. Two hours after her death she looks nothing like the bright vivacious 20-year-old her mother remembers.
As her brothers prepare for Lakshmi's funeral, friends shuffle past her corpse, some garlanding her, others touching her feet. A few shed a tear but there is no outpouring of grief.
Death is all too common in this tiny village.
Lakshmi was a victim of a once commonplace system, now outlawed, but still flourishing in isolated parts of southern India.
As a devadasis, or servant of god, she was dedicated at puberty to the goddess Yellamma.
Her mother - struggling to bring up her six children - accepted the advice of the local priest. When Lakshmi reached puberty - the course of her life was decided by the village elders.
After a short auction her future, and virginity, were sold for a pittance.
At the age of 12, Lakshmi became a concubine for a 60-year-old man. ...
But when he died, Lakshmi's security, and that of her unborn son, were bleak.
No one else in the village was interested in her, and even if she had met a nice young man her status as a devadasis would have prevented them marrying.
Like all devadasis, Lakshmi was in effect married to the deity, Yellamma. She was expected to carry out rituals at the village temple, and to sing and dance at festivals.
She was invited to all the village's social functions. In this area marriages and house-warmings are incomplete without a devadasis. Evil spirits are said to cling to them, sparing the guests. ...
Easily identifiable by their red beaded necklaces devadasis are a common sight in India's red light districts.
Most have been targeted by the pimps who tour the areas of southern India where the devadasis system is still endemic. Tales of easy fortunes made in Bombay lure the girls. ...
How can someone say no to the priest who recognises that your child has been chosen to serve God?
During the days of the British Raj the devadasis system was outlawed, but it persisted. After independence the Indian Government also banned the practice.
But there are still tens of thousands of devadasis. A government survey in just one district of one southern Indian state found over 8,000."
From an article called Giving Daughters Away from Newsday, December 1994:
"India's huge sex industry is fueled not only by poverty and despair, but by centuries old religious traditions trapping women in prostitution for life.
On the auspicious day of the full moon of Magha in 1907, when she was 7 years old, Radha Murali's parents took her to the Saundatti Temple in Karnataka and gave her to the goddess Yellamma. From that day forward Murali lived as a Devadasi - never marrying, working as a prostitute and beggar.
Now 94, Murali is the matriarch of the Hindu Devadasi sect. And she has decided that no more children should be given to the goddess.
"The time has come for Devadasi to end," the frail Murali said, surrounded by other Devadasis in a room in Kolhapur, in western India.
"It happened with me, that my parents gave me to Yellamma, and to the rest of my generation," she said. "But it should not happen to other girls. What I have suffered - I don't want to continue that." ...
Wedded to the deity, the young girl wears a necklace of beads that signifies she can never marry a mortal, and her hair remains forever unwashed and uncut. When she reaches puberty, an auction is held and men bid for the privilege of being the first to touch the virgin child.
The so-called "touching ceremony" today finds two primary groups of bidders: Brothel owners, and men who have syphilis or gonorrhea. It is widely believed among India's lower castes that having sex with a virgin removes sexually transmitted diseases.
"In ancient times, she [the Devadasi initiate] had to look after the Brahmin [priests], clean the temple and serve in various religious functions in praise of Yellamma," said Prof. Sadhana Zadbuke, a social scientist with Kolhapur College who has studied the sect.
But formal temples declined while millions of children were still being offered as Devadasi, she said.
"Today about half the Devadasi are prostitutes. They're basically prostitutes until they are too old, and then they become beggars." ..."
From an article titled AMY CARMICHAEL - Founder of Dohnavur Fellowship from History's Women - An Online Magazine:
"... In 1895, Amy was commissioned by the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society to go to Dohnavur, India, where she served fifty-six years as God's devoted servant without a furlough. A major part of her work there was devoted to rescuing children who had been dedicated by their families to be temple prostitutes.
While living in Dohnavur, India, with a band of women that had been converted to Christ, Amy founded the Dohnavur Fellowship which became a haven for homeless children, especially those girls who had escaped from temple prostitution. She was even given “temple babies”, infants that were born of the temple prostitutes, to raise in her “home”. ..."
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(Bible topics include the end of the world, sex and marriage, violence, anger and jealousy, whether Christians should gossip and tell dirty jokes, and some of the reasons why Christians suffer. There are also articles to help with various problem behaviours like alcoholism and anger management.)
|Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites, The Book of Revelation, And People's Religious Experiences Today|
|Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians|
(Bible topics include love and caring, the appropriate Christian attitude to personal wealth, prejudice, and false Christian teaching.)
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