I had the opportunity to watch “The Bible Rules” a new series on the History Channel 2. This is about the lesser known bits of the bible, the parts that many Christians and Jews have no idea exist since most of their leaders will judiciously ignore them in favor of the happy fuzzy parts. It’s an interesting counterpoint to the nonsense they had last year, “The Bible” (reviewed by me here, and here) which was recently repackaged into a movie, “Son of God” to get even more money from theists.
As expected, there are TrueChristians who are sure that the series is wrong wrong! Wrong!, and not interpreted in the “right” way (just do an internet search on the series and a page or two in you can see the frothing). It’s hilarious to see them horrified that God wasn’t mentioned until a whole 5 minutes into the show “So deficient of Godly teaching is this series that it’s not until 5 minutes and 30 seconds into the first episode that God is even mentioned although Moloch is discussed almost from the opening words.” I guess mentioning the Bible and quoting the Bible isn’t enough for some TrueChristians; it all has to be about them. I wonder must God be mentioned every, hmmm, 5.34 seconds to be Christian enough? Of course, this TrueChristian is also in shock over the new Cosmos series too since it dares to tell the truth and show their religion as it is, warts and all.
I’m only one episode in, “The Curse” (can see it here ,may not be visible to folks outside the US. It autolaunches with soun.d. You can also get close captioning on it) but the presentation seems to take one stand, that these strange laws, most abhorrent to many modern humans, are simply evidence of the ancient cultures and how they lived. This is a valid viewpoint that I have no problem with as an atheist. It does appear to lead to much discomfort on the part of the various religious leaders whose comments are in the show. It may indeed be my subjective view of how they act, but there are many too-wide smiles, and nervous laughter when certain verses are discussed. There is a lot of “oh how silly these laws are” whilst trying to make believe the god supposedly ordering those laws exists. It comes down to: do you believe that the bible is accurate when it quotes God as directly giving these laws, or do you want to claim that these laws are completely human in basis, being how they reacted to a world that was often lethal and mysterious to them? The series description says that “We find weird rules, revealing rules, curiosity-inspiring rules—and these rules, which will help us understand history, are presented in informative, surprising and reaffirming ways.” Reaffirming to who? For me, this show is indeed reaffirming that the claims of the bible and its believers are nonsense.
Some of the commenters who are on this show are the “Interfaith Amigos” a rabbi, a UCC pastor and a Sufi imam; Michael Coogan, a lecturer at the Harvard Divinity School (a quote from him “These books were written over the course of many centuries, and like all other books, they reflect the presuppositions and prejudices, the ideas and ideals of their authors (almost entirely men) and of the societies in and for which they were written.” ); Rev. Bill Golderer (ordained the first gay Presby minister, much to the horror of other Christians who saw him in this show), Rev. Brian McLaren; Salman Hameed; Patrick McGovern (he’s one of the folks who help Dogfish Head Brewery come up with their stranger things); Rev. Dr. Jaqueline Lewis; Thomas Cahill; Dr. Jacob L. Wright; Seth Sanders; Shawna Dolansky; Rev. James Hamilton; Rabbi Brad Hirschfield; Eric H. Cline; and others. Most of these are apologists who want to place a more modern spin on what their god “really” meant.
Here are the verses reviewed in this episode and some thoughts on them.
“Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Moloch.” – Leviticus 18 (right before the admonitions against homosexual sex) it appears that they are using the ESV version of the bible for this. Of course, some Christians are sure that this version is “a lie of the devil”, declaring so on their stereotypically badly designed websites. Note for TrueChristians: your claims don’t become more “true” because of the number of colors and fonts you use.
Much shock is shown when child sacrifice is mentioned. “Who or what would demand the sacrifice of a child?” Of course, anyone who knows that bible knows that the god mentioned there does exactly this (Genesis 22, perhaps in Exodus 22: 29-30 considering first born sons the same as livestock, Judges 11, and perhaps when this god kills David’s son rather than David, 2 Samuel 12, as a replacement sacrifice). The show does call anything but Christianity and Judasim a “cult” which I am guessing is a sop to modern theists, but they are religions just like ones now. There is some evidence that child sacrifice was practiced, and it seems that it was not an unthinkable act throughout out all of the religions of the ancient Middle East and Mediterranean. Valuable sacrifices were made to all gods of that time, blood and life being the most important. They were all “horrible demanding” deities. In this segment, Rev. McLaren seems to have a problem not laughing through his interview about child sacrifice. It strikes me as the uncomfortable laughter of someone who really doesn’t want to talk about something but has found himself on tape. We have Golderer and McLaren sure that Abraham was horrified by his god’s demand, but we have no idea what Abraham felt because the bible says he did exactly what God asked without question, no emotions mentioned at all.. We do have a Christian pastor who is sure that God can ask you do the awful and that you should do it (around 7 minutes in). Rev. Dr. Jaqui Lewis is sure that what god says is what should be done. In my opinion, this is a rather peculiar attitude for someone who claims to be for social justice. It is the claim of the pastors that the A&I story was a change in paradigm, that God was saying we don’t sacrifice anymore. I do not find that to be the case at all. There is nothing that says that child sacrifice is wrong and primitive, it only says that God was testing Abraham to see if he would do anything that God said and that he needed Isaac in the days to come.
“Whoever curses father and mother should be put to death” – Exodus 21
Again, the show presents this as a cultural thing, ancient peoples believed that curses were real. A valid answer but a problem when one wants to believe that supernatural powers are real and gods are real. People may have believed in curses but is there any evidence these curses worked? It doesn’t seem so. We do have curses recorded from the ancient period but nothing shows that the curses were any more effective then than they are now, not at all. No more effective than spells or prayers. The show claims that “Thousands of years ago, there were people who used magical spells to change the course of events.” There were stories about people who did this, but again no evidence of this being true, no more than Athena showing up at Troy.
“A man or woman who is a medium or wizard shall be put to death” – Leviticus 20
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