(CN: talk of sexual assault, pedophilia, and serious systemic misogyny.)
We’ve been talking lately about a volunteer manual put out by a fake abortion clinic. Last time, we covered its “blue pages,” a section containing a short list of Bible verses that Crisis Pregnancy Centers mistakenly consider to be definitive in condemning abortion. Not only was nothing there actually helpful to their cause, but the CPC also left out an awful lot of Bible verses that reveal that the Bible’s god is a total fan of abortion–sorta. I’ll show you some of those verses today. But more than that, I’ll show you a bunch of stuff I didn’t see or understand until well after my deconversion.
That said, I’m not going to present you with a listicle of Bible verses that clobber other clobber verses. First and foremost, it doesn’t really help anybody to see yet more evidence that sufficiently-motivated Christians can twist literally anything in their holy book to support or condemn any position. We already knew that, and the many Christians willfully ignoring that reality probably won’t come around just based on my say-so.
What I want to do instead is present the following verses and stories in the context of what I would have made of them when I was a true-blue Christian. These are some of the Bible verses and stories that I personally wish I’d seen while I was involved in the religion myself–but didn’t. The list is presented with that unique kind of clarity that only hindsight can provide.
Strap in and keep your hands and feet inside the SUV at all times! And no flash photography around the T-Rex. She’s still feeling self-conscious.
A God Who Loves Abortion Potions.
I didn’t see the abortion potion story until long after my deconversion. And when I finally did run across it, I immediately knew why I’d never seen it!
It’s technically called the ordeal of the bitter water. Biblehub.com calls it “the adultery test.” It’s found in the Book of Numbers, chapter 5. In it, we see that not only does the Bible’s god approve of abortion, but he provides a recipe for his people to follow in creating an abortifacient potion!
Basically it was a form of trial by ordeal imposed upon a woman who was suspected of having become pregnant through adultery. She was taken to the local priest with a “grain offering of memorial” to give to him, a ceremony that sounds humiliating in and of itself. He would then mix holy water with temple floor-sweepings in a vessel and write down a curse on a scroll, which he’d then rinse into the holy water/floor sweepings. Then he’d force her to drink that disgusting concoction.
If she miscarried afterward, then she was judged guilty of adultery. If she didn’t, then she was judged innocent.
Real culture of life, eh? (That’s Christianese for, roughly, “a society that has given in to religious fanatics’ demands by criminalizing abortion.” We’ll look more closely at this phrase later on.) This is a god who very clearly did not see abortion as murder, and who very clearly didn’t value fetuses at all. Rather, forcing abortion on a woman was a way to publicly degrade someone suspected of misbehavior. Bear in mind also that the ancient Hebrews certainly had other ways of aborting unwanted pregnancies, so this lurid test sounds like it was more done to assuage the suspicion of the woman’s partner.
Strangely, the Bible’s god didn’t ever tell his human ant farm not to hurt pregnant women because it’d potentially damage the fetuses growing inside them. Nor did he tell them that if a man has so much suspicion of his wife’s unfaithfulness that he would put her through this ordeal, then maybe he’s the problem–not her–and that even if she did break her promise to him maybe they needed to work it out like mature adults.
This whole story would have totally floored me, if I’d clearly perceived it in the Bible when I was Christian. It would have been a dealbreaker.
A God Who Loves the Slaughter of Fetuses, Babies, Children, and Women.
After my deconversion, I was amazed to see the sheer preponderance of wartime sexual violence in the Old Testament, often performed as part of a war campaign. This FFRF link offers a good catch-all list:
- Numbers 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones.
- Deuteronomy 2:34 utterly destroyed the men and the women and the little ones.
- Deuteronomy 28:53 And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters.
- I Samuel 15:3 slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.
- 2 Kings 8:12 dash their children, and rip up their women with child.
- 2 Kings 15:16 all the women therein that were with child he ripped up.
- Isaiah 13:16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled and their wives ravished.
- Isaiah 13:18 They shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes shall not spare children.
- Lamentations 2:20 Shall the women eat their fruit, and children.
- Ezekiel 9:6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children.
- Hosea 9:14 give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.
- Hosea 13:16 their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
Some culture of life on display here, eh? Not only does this god not forbid gruesome violence against the most powerless people in his culture, he demands it on multiple occasions as a way to punish and demoralize his people’s enemies.
This form of violence wasn’t invented by the people of the Old Testament, and it didn’t go away after those days. In modern times, we still see it done against women and children–especially in areas dominated by authoritarian regimes.
I’d have been humiliated to have seen this list when I was a Christian–and would have found impossible the task of harmonizing these verses with the idea of an omnimax god of love, mercy, grace, and justice. I’m still shocked that I just had no idea these verses existed.
A God Who Loves Rape.
You’ve probably noticed that women–even and especially pregnant women–are simply pawns that the Old Testament writers used to inflict suffering upon enemies. But more than that, the Bible shows us a god who not only condones rape, but demands it with unsettling regularity.
Numbers 31 is probably the best example of this trope. In it, the Bible’s god tells his Hebrews to go slaughter the Midianites. As per their god’s orders, Moses and Eleazar raise a huge army and murder every man among the Midianites, as well as all the non-virgin women (we are not told how they find out who is and isn’t a virgin, but we can guess). Moses tells his men to murder even their enemies’ male children. But they do spare the young girl-children and virgin women, who are all given to the soldiers.
Given that women married young in that part of the world and especially in those days, a virginal woman was very likely to be an disturbingly-young woman by our standards. Their consent is not even a consideration in this story, however, so their ages are hardly of interest. There’s no “age of consent” anywhere in the Bible–nor for that matter any prohibition against father-daughter incest.
All in all, the Bible tells us that after the Midianite massacre, 32,000 virgins were distributed to the men who’d just murdered their families. Numbers 31 doesn’t detail exactly what happened to them after that distribution, but we can guess. The Bible thoughtfully provides divinely-handed-down guidelines for exactly how to rape a captive woman taken in battle. In Deuteronomy 21, we learn that her hair must be shaved off, her nails trimmed, and her clothing taken away (and presumably replaced, though the chapter doesn’t explicitly say this). She is to be kept imprisoned in her captor’s house for 30 days before being forcibly married off to him–and then raped.
Rape seems absolutely endemic in the Bible. Besides the rape of Tamar, which ends with Tamar more or less “desolate in her brother Absalom’s house” to be avenged by her brother, in the myth about Lot in Genesis 19, as well, a totally holy man of “God” offers his virgin daughters to a rabid crowd of people who want to rape his guests. He does so knowing full well that his daughters will be raped, but he’d rather his own daughters face that fate than subject his male guests to it. The angelic guests figure out a way to get the family out of the city without anybody getting raped, and Lot is never penalized for offering his daughters to the mob–just as he is not criticized later for having sex with his own daughters. This behavior is seen as perfectly compatible with holiness even in the New Testament.
Lastly, one of the most horrifying and brutal stories of rape that I have ever heard comes from the Book of Judges (chapter 19), wherein someone makes the same kind of offer–here, y’all, rape this woman under my power instead of a male guest–and it is accepted. After the concubine dies of her injuries, her master personally cuts her corpse up to send one piece to each of the twelve Hebrew tribes as a (wildly successful) wake-up call regarding this huge wrong that had been done to him. In this story, the concubine’s master is not penalized or criticized for having offered a woman to a howling mob that he knows has rape on its mind. Nobody even blinks at the idea that he’s done this grotesque and evil thing.
The Bible’s ongoing advocacy of the rape and murder of children in particular is one of the biggest sticking points there could possibly be to the idea of the Bible being some kind of moral teaching-document. And Christians only look worse, if that’s even possible, when they try to reconcile their holy book’s own stories with their insistence on their god’s goodness and ultimate morality.
Yeah, these stories would have been a huge problem for me–and that problem would only have been compounded by Christians’ inevitable attempts at damage control. I don’t think any of them even realize they’re just making themselves look worse when they try to reconcile this stuff. The story of the concubine in particular would have been it. There’s no way. That’s one of the worst things I’ve ever heard.
A God Who Issued A Curse to End All Curses.
Of course, every single thing I’ve written here pales beside this last entry. When I realized what it meant for us as a species, I actually wept because I had just realized that all of the time I’d spent as a Christian, I’d worshiped and even loved a being who, if he’d existed, would have been both a monster and the enemy of all humanity.
He turned out not to exist, which was a relief, but that realization, itself, still contained some profoundly disturbing implications for Christianity.
What’s worse is that I knew about this story–or at least I knew about the sanitized version that ends up in children’s storybooks. I just hadn’t put together what it really meant–not until long, long after my deconversion.
In Genesis 3, when the Bible’s god discovers that Adam and Eve have eaten of the forbidden fruit he so thoughtfully put right in front of them in the Garden, he issues three permanent curses upon everyone involved.
- All serpents are cursed to wriggle in the dirt forever for helping us achieve sentience and maturity. The Bible’s god further decrees that humans and serpents will forever be enemies–which starts a game of “let’s you and him fight” that has been going on ever since.
- All men are cursed to toil forever to feed themselves and their families. Instead of just gathering food easily from a lush garden, they will have to work their tails off for little reward.
- And all future women are cursed to bear children in great pain, and to love the men who rule over them.
It’s not hard to imagine that this story was simply a “Just So Story” meant to illustrate and explain why the world looked the way it did. But to Christians taught to see Genesis as a literal account of stuff that literally happened, this verse becomes the story of the greatest genocide ever committed upon our planet.
This genocide was greater, still, than the Great Flood, and it is still going on today.
How many women do you imagine have died in childbirth?
How many women have been murdered by abusive partners?
How many people have died due to hunger and malnutrition?
How many lives do you suppose this curse has claimed in total?
Exact numbers vary, but the usual estimates of the the number of human beings that have ever existed (since homo sapiens came onto the scene around 50,000 BCE) at 108 billion, if you want to get started on those questions.
In recent years we’ve come a long way in easing some aspects of this three-part curse–no thanks to any gods! Norman Borlaug is credited with saving about a billion people from hunger and malnutrition with his “green revolution.” Antivenoms were invented about a century ago and have saved countless lives that would have been lost through snake bites.
That leaves the curse upon Eve.
Even now, 3+ women are murdered every day by their romantic partners.
More than any other dealbreaker I ever saw in the Bible, this myth is the one that I cannot ignore and cannot forgive, cannot overlook, cannot abide, and cannot hand-wave away. Even the idea that a holy book would contain such a monstrous curse invalidates it as a source of wisdom for me. This Bible story is the one that would have broken my faith, would have kneecapped it and curbstomped it, I truly believe today.
The Real Problem Here.
Do not ever use people as private property. Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relations. Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child.
Christopher Hitchens, “The New Commandments,” 2010
The God of the Bible doesn’t give a wet slap about abortion, fetuses, children, women, or families. He does not care about this nebulous culture of life nonsense, either.
That said: Do you know what he really hates?
Personal agency. Bodily ownership. Self-sovereignty.
Always, most of all, forever, the right of consent over one’s own body’s use.
Bodily ownership is these women’s ultimate sin, and that’s why these culture warriors concentrate on making the penalties for abortion as dizzyingly high and as obscenely-punitive as possible.
A big part of effectively lowering abortion rates involves getting out of the way of women’s personal decisions, which is exactly why these culture warriors can’t ever make that their goal.
No, the real goal for culture warriors is owning women’s bodies again.
And the Bible is right on board with them there.
I wish I’d seen these stories when I was Christian. I don’t think I’ve have missed seeing the truth they reveal about Christianity.
But I didn’t see them. Maybe I couldn’t, not until I was really close to deconverting in the first place.
A lot goes into noticing and then processing information that threatens deeply-held beliefs, and Christians have some special motivations for avoiding that whole carousel ride as well as special skills they’ve cultivated in moving around them. I’ll show you what some of those beasties look like, next time. See you then!
A lot of this post happened because I was fundagelical, and so therefore a Biblical literalist/inerrantist. There are certainly other ways of interpreting the Bible, but more progressive Christians don’t generally get into the culture war anyway.
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