Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Bible needs constant reassurance

Have you noticed how so many Christians, especially apologists, are constantly repeating the same mantras about how "the Bible is the perfect word of God", how it's infallible and unchanging, how there are no contradictions, how it's morally absolute, and so on? Likewise Christians are constantly repeating how God is good, God loves you, etc.

Many people have noticed, and they make a quite good point, that this is quite telling about the Bible.

Normally a work or other source of information does not need constant reassurances because it can stand on its own. You don't see people constantly reassuring that, to take a completely random example, "Euclid's Elements is full of correct and useful mathematical proofs." They don't have to do that because Euclid's Elements can stand on its own merits and does not need people to be constantly reminding you how good it is. You can check the veracity of what it says and come up with your own conclusions about its validity.

Not so with the Bible. It cannot stand on its own merits (given how many morally questionable rules and advise it gives, how many contradictions it has, how heinous the crimes of the god it depicts are, and so on) and thus Christians need to be constantly reassuring and reminding themselves that it is good and valid.

If the Bible were indeed the perfect, infallible word of a perfect omniscient God, then it would need no such reassurances because anybody would be able to check its validity on their own.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Proof of virginity

Deuteronomy 22 is overall one of the most embarrassing chapters in the entire Bible and doesn't get much attention among Christians. It's seldom brought up in church, or even in Bible study sessions, and even when it rarely is brought up, it's usually quickly shoved aside with some light excuses and rationalizations.

Perhaps the most embarrassing passages of this chapter are the following:

13 If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her 14 and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” 15 then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. 16 Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. 17 Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, 18 and the elders shall take the man and punish him. 19 They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.
20 If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.
What this is saying that when a married woman has sex with her husband for the first time, it's expected for her to bleed (because her hymen breaks), and for the parents of the woman to take the bedsheet as "proof" that she was a virgin.

This passage has quite many problems. All these problems give an interesting light to the claim that the Bible is the perfect and infallible word of God.

Firstly, this really demonstrates the emphasis that this culture of the antiquity put on virginity, but let's not go there now.

One of the major problems with this passage (supposedly from the perfect and infallible word of God) is that the "proof of virginity" is extremely flimsy. There are many problems with it, including:
  • Not all women, even if virgin, bleed when having sex for the first time. There are numerous reasons for this. Also, some women may bleed more than others, and some may bleed so little that it wouldn't leave any clearly visible and unambiguous stain. This means that a woman could get stoned to death because she happened to be one of the unlucky ones who didn't bleed.
  • The blood stain could be trivially faked. If the parents didn't want their daughter to die, then they could easily fabricate the "proof".
  • How are the parents supposed to get the bedsheet? Are they supposed to be waiting on the other room or something? Moreover, even if the sheet would get stained, the man could easily dispose of the bedsheet and claim that there was no blood.
Overall, this "proof of virginity" is so flimsy, so unreliable, and so prone to misuse, that one really has to wonder how this could possibly be the "perfect and infallible word of God." The whole thing is just outright embarrassing.

Of course the even more serious and embarrassing part is the death by stoning if a woman cannot prove having been a virgin. How exactly is this moral and just? Is this really the perfect absolute morality that we are supposed to embrace?

Notice also what happens if the man does not like her new wife and is unable to accuse her of being a slut: He pays money to the wive's parents and is forced to be married to her for life. That's one happy marriage for you. And of course, the woman is not consulted on any of this.

How many Christians, who advocate the Bible as the perfect and infallible word of God, the absolute moral law that we all should follow, would be ready to follow these passages?