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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Know Your Abominations 

Today's Bible quiz: Two guys -- two loosely-garbed guys; we're in the Old Testament here -- find themselves in a knock-down drag-out Friday night brawl. As they're rolling around in the sawdust, the first guy's wife reaches into the fray, grabs guy #2 by the pearl onions, and gives the old tobacco pouch an excruciatingly painful three-quarter twist, thereby creating an unfair advantage for hubby. What, under Mosaic law, should her punishment be?Answer below. But first, our sermon, from Sam Harris, whose new book is The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason:
President Bush and the Republicans in the Senate have failed — for the moment — to bring the Constitution into conformity with Judeo-Christian teachings. But even if they had passed a bill calling for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, that would have been only a beginning. Leviticus 20:13 and the New Testament book of Romans reveal that the God of the Bible doesn't merely disapprove of homosexuality; he specifically says homosexuals should be killed: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death."

God also instructs us to murder people who work on the Sabbath, along with adulterers and children who curse their parents. While they're at it, members of Congress might want to reconsider the 13th Amendment, because it turns out that God approves of slavery — unless a master beats his slave so severely that he loses an eye or teeth, in which case Exodus 21 tells us he must be freed.

What should we conclude from all this? That whatever their import to people of faith, ancient religious texts shouldn't form the basis of social policy in the 21st century . . . .

It is time we recognize that religious beliefs have consequences. As a man believes, so he will act. Believe that you are a member of a chosen people, awash in the salacious exports of an evil culture that is turning your children away from God, believe that you will be rewarded with an eternity of unimaginable delights by dealing death to these infidels — and flying a plane into a building is only a matter of being asked to do it. Believe that "life starts at the moment of conception" and you will happily stand in the way of medical research that could alleviate the suffering of millions of your fellow human beings. Believe that there is a God who sees and knows all things, and yet remains so provincial a creature as to be scandalized by certain sexual acts between consenting adults, and you will think it ethical to punish people for engaging in private behavior that harms no one.

Now that our elected leaders have grown entranced by pseudo-problems like gay marriage, even while the genuine enemies of civilization hurl themselves at our gates, perhaps it is time we subjected our religious beliefs to the same standards of evidence we require in every other sphere of our lives. Perhaps it is time for us to realize, at the dawn of this perilous century, that we are paying too high a price to maintain the iconography of our ignorance.
BIBLE QUIZ ANSWER: Mrs. Nut-Grabber is in deep shit, all right, but it could be worse: "Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her" -- Deuteronomy 25, 11-12. And what about the hapless grabee? Well, depending on the damage, he could be S.O.L. himself: "He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord" -- Deuteronomy 23, 1.

One thing we like about the Bible is that it covers almost any situation you can think of and it's really, really specific. Now let's finish reading the story of Lot and his daughters and we'll tuck you in.

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