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Thinking Out Loud

Six awkward questions on Biblical morality

Six awkward questions on Biblical morality

Religious people tell me atheists have no basis for morality–all we have are opinions and no one’s opinion is more valid than anyone else’s. Instead, they point me to a book they say was inspired by our creator. They insist God is the only true moral authority. God can give us perfect moral laws for eternity.

So I read the Bible but I came away with questions I couldn’t answer.

1. I now understand I am free to own slaves. Naturally, I must abide by God’s perfect laws on how to beat them, how to sell them and how to pass them to my children when I die.

The Bible says I can buy slaves from strangers but I live in a city where almost everyone is a stranger. Does this mean I can buy from anyone, or does it mean I can only buy from foreigners, like the French or Germans? (With the Euro where it is now, French slaves could be a bargain.)

2. I have two unmarried daughters. If either of them should be raped in the countryside, I know she will have to marry her rapist and may never get divorced but I was just wondering about the penalty the rapist should pay. The Bible says 50 Shekels of silver but should we take account of inflation? And how much would that be in British pounds?

3. If I buy a man’s daughter as a sex slave and if she is no good in bed, I know I can pass her on to my son. But, if she fails to please my son too, I am obliged to sell her back to her father. In this case, should I insist on getting a full refund, or is there a discount for wear and tear?

4. My son does sometimes go out with his friends drinking and from time-to-time answers me back. Reading the holy scriptures, I see I have been too lenient with him. Next time it happens, I’ll take him to the outskirts of the town with some other men and we’ll stone him to death. I see now that is the most moral thing to do.

But the Bible is a bit scant on details, it doesn’t advise what size stones to throw at him. Small ones would allow him to suffer longer and large ones would get the job done quicker. Can Bible experts offer any advice?

5. My neighbor is a hospital doctor. I often see him sneaking out of the house on the Sabbath to go to work. I know I should stone him to death for this evil but there are so few stones in my locality. Would it be acceptable to beat him to death with a baseball bat?

6. Most legal systems in the world presume people are innocent until proven guilty but the Bible has it the other way round—we are presumed guilty from birth. Should we incorporate that Biblical principle into English law?

All these questions make me inclined to give up on Biblical morality. I think I’ll just go back to being honest and considerate, and helping others whenever I can. That works.

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