Friday, 11 January 2008
Human Sacrifice in the Bible
(and you know Who is responsible)Intro:
This is a carry over from Walter_Rat's site and adds one more notch on the belt of the Biblical God's evil.
Whew…at least no one is arguing she just got sent to the nunnery. The fine folk over there at tectonics on the other hand, spend so much time arguing for cultural context and the importance of the mindset at the time (like not carrying on the family line), that when push comes to shove even they have to note what would otherwise be understated as "wrong-headed or peculiar priorities." You don't say? They also admit, "Did Jephthah actually go through with a human sacrifice? Many commentators think so..." Aren't they like crazed maniacs when someone departs from the interpretation of "many commentators"? Oh well...at least these mainstream Christian apologists recognize if it is a human sacrifice regardless of God's lack of commission, "then we have a very disturbing story indeed, one that suggests that God endorsed a human sacrifice -- implicitly if not explicitly." Duh...everyone knows that.
_________________________________________________________________________"Now the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, so that he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon. Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD gave them into his hand. He struck them with a very great slaughter from Aroer to the entrance of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.
When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.” So she said to him, “My father, you have given your word to the LORD; do to me as you have said, since the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.” She said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my companions.” Then he said, “Go.” So he sent her away for two months; and she left with her companions, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity. At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made; and she had no relations with a man. Thus it became a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year."
Of course the background problem here is the ultra high tension honor/shame system to which every turn of events in these chapters are hinged on…which is basically what makes them so horrifically offensive to modern (should I say Western) eyes and grants us these most potent gems on occasion. Granted…it all came from the mouth of Jeph (Jeff?) as the Gabester says, but this comes at a sin of God’s omission on three counts. (And God is no stranger to sins of omission.)
One…this whole culture seems very much to be over-addicted to honor at like any expense. I’m not speaking out against honor per se…but I am noting that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. For instance apathy is bad, and love is good…but too much love is smothering and inconsiderate. It is only a baby step more to note that every moral consideration, theme, or principle has a “green zone” on the dial that is only morally coherent within bounds and you should be able to tell that both apathy and smothering (for the sake of this example) are just different versions of not actually caring about someone else.
Just tone that honor crap down a little bit then you don’t have people thinking they have to kill themselves because the king fell at their side (remember the Saul debacle?)…what about future battles? What about your fellow soldiers that might need your fucking help? What about your family waiting at home that might be better off with a daddy and not an idea? Screw that! Better to die for a psychological affiliation than to live without honor right? Good thing the entire culture is equally as screwed up and reciprocates the same high tension. I'm not saying that God had anything to do with Saul's soldier, but the soldier's reaction to the situation was indicative of the mindset of the times and explains the reason stories like these could be written and received and it is important that the moral contradiction be plausible and justifiable in that regard. You might be tempted to ask, "Well who would make a story up like that?" and that's your reason. It is possible that not everyone in that society really had the same infatuation with honor and that perhaps (much like how our own movies don't exactly portray us accurately) many stories in the Bible contain a great deal of literary over-emphasis. That's all well and fine from a sociological standpoint, but presumably from a Christian perspective these things happened as is and are actually representative of good judgment on a morally superlative deity. "I'm Jesus Christ and I approve this message."
God we are told, was all about “cultural” change with his pure Aryan race (oops, sorry that was Hitler)—I mean his holy nation of Israel, but not *that* much change apparently. You know the psychologically stable kind that doesn’t lend as easily to collective intercultural overkill and endless wars with no resolution and deep seeds of never ending retaliation and strife we see in the Middle East till even this very day. Me thinks that's what that "high tension" adds to the equation. It makes perfect sense that culture at this nexus of the ancient world could be tribalistic and always have a long list of historical reasons to mistrust their neighbors and that the "kill them before they kill you" and the instability of the times could yield a general psychological emphasis on ideas that transcended what would otherwise appear to be a passing breeze. You might not be able to count on your family not being massacred, but you could sure be honorable! This makes for great fodder in those crazy Kung fu movies where some warrior has to commit ritualistic suicide because he lost a battle. I don't know what happened to "training harder" and trying again later. Honor seems like it can be bigger than life itself in the East. I guess if you believe in an afterlife, this sociopathic tendency might "work out." However, I'm sure the next life can be quite well served with more modest parameters.
I'm of the "school of thought" that collateral damage exceeding everything in this life probably shouldn't be unnecessarily dished out at every opportunity for some misguided cosmic virtue and the sickness has a much wider base than just these Biblical stories. I would have to imagine that a deity with loving oversight would be looking to heal those cultural inflammations rather than justifying them or trying to short-sightedly exploit them for his own personal glory-mongering scheme. These are the amoral tools of a self-centered opportunistic tyrant that has set what is in humanity's best interest on the back burner for something else. Even in the hay day of Israel, King David was up to his eyeballs in bloodshed and King Solomon simply over-reacted the opposite direction and married every piece of ass he could get his hands on to his own spiritual detriment all in the name of peace and prosperity. These are not healthy stats and I'm not really even saying anything new that you wouldn't learn in Sunday School at that level. I am trying to point out the overall trend and end result is a Yahweh that is an immoral (hyper moral and amoral) product of the culture and fills a niche a non-existent deity can fill in an honor/shame society.
Anyway…point two sin of omission. If you knew your best friend or even a good friend (or even just anyone at all that you didn't want to see screw up their life) was going to make a bad decision…wouldn’t you immediately be there to give them counsel and help them not run their mouth before they regret what they say? If that is the case…then maybe God could have sent a friendly angel to note the idiocy of the gamble and perhaps steer him into something more like "If my cause is right, may we win this battle." Or google forbid he ask for some peaceful supernatural resolution that required no war at all. But God’s never there to nip things in the bud is he? Its always got to be some contrived scare tactic in some hearsay story so he can be habitually absent for the rest of actual history under the guise or spin of "being patient" while they "come to their senses." Are these not the hands and feet of a non-existent deity?
Point three of omission is the fact that he let the vow go through. Do two wrongs make a right? Apparently God is hoping for three wrongs making a right (three lefts would, at least; see Zoolander). How much evil can he do that good may result? It’s like Grimm’s fairy tales for honor/shame societies with national patron deities. It makes much better narrow-minded fiction. Even J.P. Holding agrees with the "apparent" moral sensationalistic format of the story-telling when he concludes, "We can surmise that there is a bit of literary 'trickery' here...the abrupt ending of the account and the non-specific 'he did to her as he vowed' is perhaps designed to shock the reader and make them wonder, 'Hey...did he? He didn't!'" [emphasis mine] So in other words for the passage to make literary sense, he would have to "apparently" kill his daughter in the end. lmfao. Gotta love Holding's idiocy.
1 Samuel 12:11
"Then the LORD sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies on every side, so that you lived securely."
I could be mistaken but is a society that is pretty much in constant danger (even if they are constantly "saved") really living securely? I mean, I'm sure it would quite helpful to Mary Jane to have Spider-man always there to save her from falling off a building every week or whatever the case may be, but I'd have to say that those constant ups and downs would still tend to make someone loose their nerve in the long run.
Hebrews 11: 32, 39
"And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets...These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised."
I guess this is the part in the story where God maintains his edge. He sent an angel to stop Abe from killing his son...I suppose he had to prove that it doesn't always work out like that. Great story telling! Why it is that God can't fill up his resume with success stories and gain his glory from a good saintly turn out in heaven always eludes me. What's this "glory" thing supposed to be about again? From start to finish the Bible is a shepherding disaster of... well, Biblical proportions. In this particular case, it appears from various commentaries that the arc of the book of Judges was about all these moral failings of Israel dovetailing into bringing a cruel monarchy upon itself. If I didn't know any better (and I'm just speculating here) I'd say this was some history retconning for the sake of a "future" king that wanted an excuse to be a cruel monarch. He could always point to stories like in Samuel and say, "See, you asked for this and you deserve it. Therefore you have to shut up." How cheap is that? I've noted a few of these kinds of themes in the OT especially that are a little too convenient for future leadership and I'll have to pull together a post on several key examples some time in the future. What's more likely? Are the myths real, or are people in power corrupt and willing to "adjust" history to their liking? This would add to the overall better explanation that we are not witnessing the provisional long term work of a good deity but rather the historical gimmicks of Jewish leadership from hundreds of years after the "fact."I’m not trying to absolve humanity from all responsibility (and in fact never am), I’m simply calling attention to the apparent fact God isn’t doing his half of the deal (or at the very least not doing it very well). For the religion to work at all there has to be some bottom line to an amoral relationship of this sort. Duh. Dysfunction doesn’t mean 100% non-function. Using the Jeph example, God could have already been way far ahead on providing a stable cultural bed (across many nations, or google forbid even all of them) to raise his Jewish crop so that it wasn't constantly at war, and if that in and of itself didn’t already change the course of events to the degree something like this might not even happen, he could have still provided the moderating counsel at just the right time…and even if Jeph for some improbable reason STILL decided to go on with the wager, God could have at least (or even Jeph’s neighbors) could have stepped into prevent a person from being collateral damage. Free will would still be being honored and you wouldn’t even have to by fiat remove all imperfection, but if you expect a plant to grow, you give it the right soil, you water and tend it, and you prune it at just the right times and then you get your fruit. Point your plow in some other direction and reap accordingly at your own peril. One could only assume for all of that "gardener" imagery we get elsewhere, that these would be reasonable expectations and there would be much more success than failure. You don't have to pretend to "know everything" to catch the trend. And its not just about "bad things happening" or "people dying," its about the context of that and appreciating the probable ramifications of these stunted humanity management skills being put into use. Too often "sophisticated" theologians like to pretend like the new atheists "just don't get" the overall theme of redemption unfolding in the Bible. Never mind that such line item pieces of junk that are focused on undermine that arc. And never mind as I've pointed out here and elsewhere, that the overall theme in the Bible's salvation scheme is divine negligence.
At every level of the scenario, constant war is accepted by this god, the high tension honor shame system is accepted by this god, fear tactic stories are accepted by this god, and long periods of nothing divine happening are accepted by this god, and cheap unfalsifiable resolutions (like everything being "okay" at the last second of some character's disastrous life) are accepted by this god. You can certainly get away with a "low impact" tall tale like that of the life of Samson with a fictional more-often-than-not impotent deity. You can come with with some improbable divine excuse for every iteration, but we have a perfect fit for the secular case overall as this is what we'd expect if this deity is only a cultural artifact. God doesn't exist is the conclusion. Force fitting him into reality is what makes him look evil in the meantime.
So…either God is just so fucking screwy in the head…or maybe this is all from start to finish just a big cultural ejaculation indicative of the times that should probably just be left in the sand where it originally landed. Perhaps you think Christians should start acting more like those crazy Muslim fanatics of today which would probably be the most analogous mindset we have on hand? I’ll bet even all those moderates would start listening to the Sam Harris they so hate. ;)
Church signs say the darnedest things, don't they? Google forbid we open up the "pandora's box of non-theistic morality"... Better the devil you know, eh?