I have often reflected on the irony of Christians claiming “persecution” and “intolerance” when others question or mock their beliefs. Tolerance itself is by definition anti-Christian. Christ commanded – he didn’t gently suggest, he commanded! – his followers to preach the gospel to everyone, o attempt to convert the entire world. The New Testament repeatedly tells Christians to shun those of other faiths. It also contains a lot of rather offensive statements about pagans. Contrary to popular belief, paganism is still around. I personally know some pagans, and, despite what the “true” word of god says, they do not worship demons. The bible is full of what would nowadays be considered “hate speech.” If it were written today about an identifiable group instead of an extinct one, most Western countries would rightly ban large portions of it as a reasonable limitation on free speech.
In our present culture – due to our collective history – there are certain groups that it is almost automatically “offensive” to say anything negative about; in particular Jews due to the holocaust, and African Americans due to slavery and civil rights. But you can say whatever you like about Philistines. It has even become a common derogatory term for someone uneducated. Why isn’t that offensive? Because the Philistines are extinct. Though it was the Assyrians who eventually conquered them, we still celebrate the deaths opf Philistines at the hands of "God's chosen people" (remember David and Goliath?). Similarly you can say whatever offensive things you like about Moabites, Ammonites, Canaanites (who the Hebrews waged a genocidal war against at Yahweh's command), or various worshipers of Ba’al. Why? Because, these groups are not real to us. They are so far back in history and disconnected from us that they may as well be fictional. Similarly, most people think pagans – at least those the bible talks about – to be long gone. So biblical passages that speak against these groups, that slander them, vilify them, and encourage violence and prejudice against them just don’t have the same impact that they would if they were presented against a group that is still real and present in our everyday lives. This is why the few passages about homosexuals seem so relevant and shocking, because they are still being used to discriminate against homosexuals to this day.
Now, just imagine if those biblical passages were not about extinct groups of people, but about Christians.
Here is a sample of some choice biblical passages that sound very different with the change of a single word or descriptor. Also, just for fun and to turn the tables, let’s change Israel to America, and God to Science and/or Reason. I know it’s ludicrous to think of giving burnt offerings to science, but let’s pretend that’s what Bunsen burners are for. They’re always telling us Science is our religion, anyway!
Before we begin I must emphatically state that I DO NOT IN ANY WAY ENDORSE, ADVOCATE OR CONDONE HATRED OF OR VIOLENCE TOWARDS CHRISTIANS OR ANYONE ELSE! This is simply an exercise to illustrate a point. The very fact I have to put that disclaimer on here, while it’s in no way required for the actual bible verses I am altering, should tell you just how messed up the bible actually is!
Let’s begin with that gem of Yahweh’s divine mercy: Deuteronomy 13. Alterations to the original bible verse are in [square parenthese]. I have added bold for some particularly interesting phrases.
If a [Christian preacher], or one who foretells by [prayer], appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the [Christian preacher] says, “Let us follow [Jesus Christ]… and let us worship [him],” you must not listen to the words of that [preacher] or [that one who prays]. [Science] is testing you to find out whether you love [Science] with all your heart and with all your soul. It is [Science and Reason] you must follow, and [Science and Reason] you must revere. Keep [Science’s] commands and obey [them]; serve [Science] and hold fast to [Reason]. That [Christian preacher] or [person who prays] must be put to death for inciting rebellion against Science and Reason, who brought you out of [Church] and redeemed you from the land of [ignorance]. That [Christian preacher] or [person who prays] tried to turn you from the way [of Science and Reason]. You must purge the evil from among you.
If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship [Jesus Christ]” [the god] that neither you nor your ancestors have known, [the god] of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from [Science and Reason], who brought you out of [Church], out of the land of [ignorance]. 11 Then all [America] will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.
If you hear it said about one of the towns [Reason] is giving you to live in that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship [Jesus]” ([a god] you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock. You are to gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to [Science and Reason]. That town is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt, and none of the condemned things are to be found in your hands. Then the [high Scientist and Rationalist] will turn from his fierce anger, will show you mercy, and will have compassion on you. [Science] will increase your numbers, as [Science] promised on oath to your ancestors— because you obey [Science and Reason] by keeping all his commands that I am giving you today and doing what is right in [Science’s] eyes.
More to follow later. Hope you enjoyed this first installment.