ONE of the most oft-touted claims from the religious is that morality stems from their book of sacred text. Anyone who keeps an eye on American politics, particularly Republicans, will be all too familiar with this. The opposition to marriage equality is because God forbids it, after all. Time after time, I hear mumblings of how “objective morality” is true morality, God’s word and law, and what we all need to obey.
No doubt it was this servitude to objective morality that led UKIP councillor David Silvester (above) to claim Britain’s recent floods were a result of marriage equality in the UK – which God, apparently, takes great offence to.
I take issue with “objective” morality. I find it highly immoral, in fact, and consider subjective morality to be a far more palatable option. It is, after all, subjective morality that led us away from thinking of women as inferior to men, and many, many other instances.
My mother-in-law, an American Republican Baptist currently living in Arizona, came to stay with us over New Year. I must prefix this with the disclaimer that she probably isn’t the image popping into your heads right now. But, alas, we disagree on ethics. My first indication of this was in 2012, when at a fast food restaurant in California both my in-laws expressed that homosexual people should not enter into relationships – with or without sexual intercourse. Naturally, I enquired what they would think if their daughter, my wife, had turned out gay.
The maternal parent replied (brace yourself):
Honestly, I would rather she marry a black man than turn out gay.
“A black man?” I repeated. “But, that’s not a big deal anymore, it happens all the time.”
Not to Republicans, I guess. But I digress. During her stay with us, I was reading the Internet and came across an excerpt from the Bible, Deuteronomy 22:20-21:
20: But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, 21 then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel, by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you.
Given the ongoing outrage over Islam’s attitude to women, I thought Christians should be reminded of their own scriptures. “But that’s the Old Testament,” she responded. On that occasion, I decided I’d remain silent, but this is a response that many Christians state when faced with an immoral passage from the Bible. Next time you’re faced with it, remind them that the Old Testament is also home to the creation story, Noah’s Ark, Abraham, the commandments, King David and the prophecy of Jesus. Without the Old Testament, Christianity could not exist.
Another night during her visit, Pretty Woman was on television. Being a man in a house with two other women meant that I had no choice in the matter – we were watching Julia Roberts in her thigh-highs (which gave me little reason to complain, I must admit).
“So, what would you have done if any of your children had become prostitutes?” I asked, my curiosity in part roused because both of them adore the film and I wondered if it challenged her morals (after all, I wouldn’t be too keen on watching a film that spoke lightly of paedophilia). I forget her response about her children, but I then asked the same question in regard to her friends. “A friend I see a lot?”
“It doesn’t matter.
“Well if it was a friend I didn’t see much then I could just stop being their friend. I wouldn’t want a friend who was a prostitute.”
“Even if it was someone you’ve known for years, and who decided it’s what they want to do, or they had to do it because they had no other options?”
“No, I don’t agree with it.”
This struck me, because it’s apparently a Christian message to practice inclusive love, yet Christians do not seem so keen on display it. There was no response that she would support her friends’ decision, nor to help steer them away from such an ordeal – just a simple, “no, I don’t want to be their friend anymore.”
At first I thought, well, okay, maybe I can shrug that off on the basis that we can grow apart from friends, and that’s true. But the objective morality issue gets in the way with far more personal issues – like gay children being disowned, or gay people being beaten to death (just last week I had an argument with a Christian who said homosexuals were stains on society and should be killed), or doctors who perform abortions being murdered. Objective morality – displaying why it’s immoral.
However, if you are implying that the Church needs to modernise in its beliefs on unfashionable, controversial, and now in some instances unlawful views, then I completely disagree, as the Church is established to teach the absolute morals of Christianity, and not to pander to the whims and prevailing wind of society and the moral zeitgeist that goes with it.
That may sound reasonable at the outset, but when you consider what its implications are, it’s downright terrifying – the aforementioned treatment of women who lose their virginity before marriage and killing non-believers being perhaps the most startling, but by no means exclusive. Leviticus is widely quoted for its condemnation of homosexuality, stating that “they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” – or put another way, they brought murder upon themselves for exploring their sexuality. There’s also the advocacy of slavery littered throughout the Bible, which should have any half-decent person outraged:
If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever. (Exodus 21:2-6 NLT)
Or selling daughters as sex slaves:
When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)
Slavery is often overlooked when it comes to Bible morality, but Moses gets some recognition for his vengeance plan on the Midianites. From Numbers 31:
3 So Moses said to the people, ‘Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites so that they may carry out the Lord’s vengeance on them. 4 Send into battle a thousand men from each of the tribes of Israel.’ 5 So twelve thousand men armed for battle, a thousand from each tribe, were supplied from the clans of Israel… 15 ‘Have you allowed all the women to live?’ he asked them. 16 ‘They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.
The objective morality of the Bible here says it is justified to kill people in revenge, and kill children and women who have had sex, but to keep and rape virgin females, even those in childhood. Further into the section, at Numbers 36, we read about sacrifices to God (which, let’s not forget, is what Jesus was – a sacrifice to God):
36 The half share of those who fought in the battle was:
337,500 sheep, 37 of which the tribute for the Lord was 675;
38 36,000 cattle, of which the tribute for the Lord was 72;
39 30,500 donkeys, of which the tribute for the Lord was 61;
40 16,000 people, of whom the tribute for the Lord was 32.
Thus, for gratitude to victory, God was given 675 sheep, 72 cattle, 61 donkeys and, 32 people.
Personally, I consider this to be devoid of any morality – and, ironically, many Christians would too, which we can observe in their outrage towards the various practices of Muslims, blissfully unaware of the massacres and moral bankruptcy within the Bible.
• RICHARD WHITE is a freelance writer, editor and proofreader available for ad-hoc or ongoing projects. He has been proofreading and writing for the Freethinker for more than five years.
His writing experience is primarily books and copywriting. I ghostwrite manuscripts for clients and provide SEO blogs, articles and website content for individuals, entrepreneurs and corporate clients including Honda, Disney, Samsung and Nissan, and have written on a wide range of topics include health, finance, technology, travel, politics and cars.