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I asked a simple question on a religion discussion board recently...

The OT contains dozens of stories where God commands people to behave in immoral ways. Did God really command people to rape, torture, murder and enslave other people?

I think that's a simple yes or no question.

There appear to be three types of response:

1) Of course He didn't. These are stories of stone age and bronze age people using God as an excuse to justify their behaviour. Every culture has examples of gods like this. God is good and loving and gave us salvation.

2) It's all literally true. The bible is inerrant. God can Command whatever He wants because He is God. He doesn't have to justify it. We are too puny to make judgements about what God does.

3) It's wrong to take verses out of context.

I consider (1) and (2) to be honest views even though I don't agree. But (3) seems dishonest and evasive. On further questioning the people who hold this view refuse to answer the question at all and just refer to the "route to salvation" or quote the sermon on the mount.

I think the people in (3) have a dilemma. They can't give a straight answer because they know it opens up a new argument because they are admitting that parts of the bible are fairy tales and they can't bring themselves to admit it.

They are trying to have their cake and eat it - trying to appease the type (1) and type (2) Christians at the same time. Too afraid to disenfranchise the liberal Christians or the fundamentalists, they try to unify opposing views. They obviously can't admit that their argument justifies torture, rape, slavery and murder because they know those things are wrong.

I almost feel sorry for them.

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Comment by Neal on March 19, 2012 at 1:34pm

Hah! Whenever I hear the "Can't fix stupid," slogan I wonder if it is really worth the time and effort to try informing/changing a person's mind. Maybe evolving is the solution, unless we're headed backwards in time.

Comment by Neal on March 19, 2012 at 8:08am

Also when it comes to #1, how would you know that god is good and loving when the only source material denies those descriptors. Basically someone made up god as a ferocious adversary, and you decided that was love. 

#2 is a replay of the god works in mysterious ways statement; yeah, mysterious and stupid. 

#3 is seemingly a straight out lie. You can weave and dodge, but in the end you must put them into context for me if that's the problem.

Comment by Adriana on March 19, 2012 at 7:23am

IMHO, only 2 is intellectually honest. Option 1 makes no sense because why would God let them write that crap into HIS book if it was just an excuse from Bronze Age people? Makes no sense to me, weren't the writers of the Bible, "god-inspired"?

Number 3 is the only option a semi-sane person can put forth, and still want to remain a Christian, it's not very intellectually honest, though.

Another excuse I have heard from liberal Christians is that the Gospels are not like the OT, the gospels really are about love, because it shows the mental evolution of people, etc. It's a pretty good excuse, compared to all the others.

The Jews don't have that problem because they have interpretation, they have the Talmud, etc. They do not think the Bible is the inerrant words of god.

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