Sunday, February 15, 2009

Does God really hate abortion?

If you ask the standard pro-lifer "does the Bible oppose abortion?" their first answer will be "Of course it does! All life is sacred!" It's when you try to pin them down regarding where, exactly, the Bible says this that they start to get squirrelly. For all of the people who are willing to tell me that I'm "twisting Scripture" and taking things out of context for saying that homosexuality isn't opposed by the Bible, the only way to say that the Bible opposes abortion is to read things into the verses that aren't actually there.

You find arguments like "Psalm 78:5-6 reveals God's concern over "the children yet to be born." Yeah, that's a steaming pile. What it actually says is:
He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
Yeah, so the fathers are going to teach the baby while it's still in the womb? Or is that just saying that each generation will teach the next? Poetic license is not equal to proof.

Or the anti-abortion people will feed you unsupported arguments like "Well, the Bible says 'thou shalt not kill.' And so abortion is murder, right?" But that doesn't answer when a fetus is considered a human being. For example, all throughout the Bible, "life" is equated with "breath." In Genesis 2:7, it says "the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." So you could take that to read that life begins when the baby takes its first breath.

Alternatively, in Leviticus 27:6, the Lord tells Moses how much people are worth, to establish the tithe, and children aren't worth anything until they're a month old (anything younger apparently has no value). In the same way, the Lord told Moses to count the "Levites" (Jews) in Numbers 3:15, but not to count anybody less than a month old. So perhaps the baby isn't even human until then.

Another common argument is to use more poetic license from the Bible to show that God sees us as individuals even before we are born. For example, Jeremiah 1:5 (Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart), or Psalm 139:13-16:
or you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
So, we'll ignore the fact that in Jeremiah, we have a guy claiming to be a prophet pumping up his own importance. Let's just consider the statement in there: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." Doesn't that imply that God sees every person as important before conception? Which not only leads us back to the Catholic opposition to birth control, but, taken to its logical conclusion, any woman who miscarries should be charged at least with manslaughter, if not murder.

Same argument, folks. Let's not fool ourselves. So let's consider what the Bible actually says, as opposed to what people want to read into it.

Let's go to Numbers 5:19.
And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse.
First, that's another use of shakab-as-rape: "...If no man have shakab with thee," which is then contrasted with her willingly having sex with a man other than her husband. If it is suspected that a woman has been raped or had an adulterous affair, she will be forced to drink the "bitter water" (made from holy water and some dust swept from the church floor), which would cause her to have an abortion "to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot."

Or in Ecclesiastes 6:3-5, where Solomon is making the point that it is better to end a pregnancy early than to allow him to be born and live a miserable life:
If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he. For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.
So apparently, the "holiness of the womb" isn't quite as important as some conservative Christians would like you to believe. In fact, it wasn't even a serious crime to cause an abortion.
If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.(Exodus 21:22-25)
It states right there that abortion is a civil matter - you only pay a fine. It's the other damage, to the mother (not, you'll notice, the fetus), that can get the abuser punished.

In Genesis 38:24, there's a pregnant woman convicted of prostitution. Though the leaders of Israel knew the woman was carrying a fetus, they still decided to burn her. Why does the fetus have to die for the mother's crimes?

And all through the Bible, it repeats that it's better to be aborted, to die before you're born, than to live a crappy life. That sounds kind of... well, pro-choice to me. Or at least a "quality of life" argument.
Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, "A man child is born unto thee," making him very glad. And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame? (Jeremiah 20:14-18)

Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light. There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master. (Job 3:16-19)

If a man begets a hundred children, and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but he does not enjoy life's good things, and also has no burial, I say that an untimely birth is better off than he. For it comes into vanity and goes into darkness, and in darkness its name is covered; moreover it has not seen the sun or known anything; yet it finds rest rather than he. (Ecclesiastes 6:3-5)
OK, they were sad, so they're allowed to wish to have been aborted? Not just "never have been born," the wording is pretty clear there. "because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave"

And apparently, abortion is quite all right if it's performed on somebody you don't like, during wartime, or on someone who disagrees with your religion.
At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women. 2 Kings 15:16

Give them, O LORD—
what will you give them?
Give them wombs that miscarry
and breasts that are dry.
(Hosea 9:14)

The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
their pregnant women ripped open
(Hosea 13:16)
So basically, if you actually read the Bible, you'll find that it really isn't opposed to abortion after all. In fact, it's easier to make the case that the Bible supports pornography than it is to say that it opposes abortion.

No, really. It is. As evidence, I submit the following:
How beautiful your sandaled feet,
O prince's daughter!
Your graceful legs are like jewels,
the work of a craftsman's hands.
Your navel is a rounded goblet
that never lacks blended wine.
Your waist is a mound of wheat
encircled by lilies.
Your breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle.
(Song of Solomon 7:1-3)

Your stature is like that of the palm,
and your breasts like clusters of fruit.
I said, "I will climb the palm tree;
I will take hold of its fruit."
May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine,
the fragrance of your breath like apples,
and your mouth like the best wine.
(Song of Solomon 7:1-3)
And even more than that, my favorite Bible verse:
There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. (Ezekial 23:20)
Perhaps, rather than twisting passages from the Bible, the rabid anti-abortion activist should remember one or two. Like, perhaps, Matthew 7:1-2: Judge not, lest ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And, once again, another verse from the Gospel of Matthew. "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15:9).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Huh. Imagine that.

You know, I never figured that I'd be writing a religious blog. But I seem to have struck a nerve somewhere with my recent activities.

One of my "anonymous" responses was signed by (and therefore, I'm willing to accept that it was from) this hypocrite, who not only refused to allow a comment that he disagreed with, he decided to inform me:
It is obvious that you are not a Christian in any way shape and form. As for your military service doesn't mean squat when compared to your immature knwolwdge of the Bible and the Word of God. Truth is unchangeable and Jesus Christ is Truth. Homosexuals are by their very act condmened less they repent of their Evil Life style.
I'm glad you responed on my blog. I Knew their were people of no moral convictions out there and you obviosly are one of them. I'll pray for you and your family that you come back to the Truth.

David Drysdale Sr.
So, aside from being homophobic and illiterate (and his illiteracy matches what's on his blog - hence my acceptance that it's him), he's making some major assumptions about me simply because I disagree with him.

And, incidentally, his problems are more extensive than that. Based on the lack of balance in his thinking, I suspect that "Master Drysdale" is not as effective a teacher of the martial arts as he claims. If nothing else, the fact that he insists on referring to himself as "Master Drysdale" shows a fascinatingly large ego. He may think that he's found his center, but he's tilting pretty heavily in the wrong direction.

Oh, and by the way, Davy. There are a number of very useful spellcheck programs out there. Of course, they wouldn't solve all of your problems, like on your blog, where you air your ignorance for all the world to see.

Yeah, scroll down that left column there. Past five or six anti-gay screeds (many followed by "Master Drysdale" - not that you have an ego problem... are you short, by some chance? Because I see a little short-guy complex going on here...), couple of anti-abortion things, couple of politicians (Sarah Palin? "Governor of Alaska and trouble for Liberals"? Really? No, Davy, we want her to run in 2012. Please. She makes you look intelligent...), couple of conservative commentators (Christ, do you have enough crap on here?), way down at the bottom, where you prove how much you love your wife by having pictures of pretty girls on there... well, Spellcheck probably wouldn't tell you about this one, but you know Kiera Knightley? Yeah, I'm pretty sure she's never written a book...

However, let me expand on that shakab argument, in case anybody's interested.

If you accept that the Old Testament considered homosexual rape a particularly heinous sin, it also explains one of the worst stories in the Old Testament: Genesis 19. In a nutshell, two angels visit Lot in Sodom and he treats them to dinner and convinces them to stay the night. Outside, a group of men gather, asking to "know" the men staying with Lot — to "know them in the Biblical sense." Lot discourages the crowd by offering them his daughters, telling the men they can do whatever they want to the girls. But the daughters are refused.

Now, while this chapter is commonly used to denigrate loving, same-sex relationships by comparing them to homosexual rape, which is really a nonsensical comparison - it's exactly the same as saying that the existence of an abusive husband proves that any marriage will always be a crime, or the fact that a heterosexual rapist exists is evidence that all men are evil animals.

(OK, there's actually some truth in that...)

However, consider the fact that Lot was supposed to be a righteous man, and yet he offers his daughters to a violent mob to be gang-raped. And this story is mirrored in Judges 19 (only in Judges, the woman is accepted, and, having survived being gang-raped all night, is then killed by her lover when she limps back home).

First of all, those stories prove how little value women had in that society. But if you think about it hard enough (and lock away that little voice in your brain that tells you how evil this whole scenario is), the stories are somewhat mitigated if the society also had a strong, religious prohibition against homosexual rape.

(The way I see it, it might explain it, but it doesn't make it right. I have a hard time not seeing any society that could think that way as evil - however, I'm also viewing that society from the outside.)

In the end, if these people thought that homosexual rape was so bad that heterosexual rape was considered positive in comparison, that explains a great deal about both chapters of the Old Testament.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Fun with Christians III

Let me just start out by saying this: I apparently need a hobby. Very, very badly.

I have started trolling innocent blogs.

OK, to be honest, they aren't that innocent. They're conservative Christian websites, loaded with the stink of smug superiority exclusive to the self-satisfied hypocrite with a ready-made group of victims to look down on. And I wasn't really trolling, as such, since I was on-topic, and merely waited for them to post something saying that "homosexuality is a sin." And, really, I can't say that I've started doing that, since I tend to chime in with annoying chunks of reality whenever I run across somebody being stupid.

So, really, in the larger sense, the only true parts of that sentence involved the fact that I did it (whatever it was), and that whatever it was that I did, I did it on other blogs.

OK, maybe I started this whole thing out badly. Let me back up, and I'll see if I can start making sense. Wouldn't that be a nice change?

Some time ago, I was skimming through some of the various blogs I like to read, and I happened upon a post on Adult Christianity which I found fascinating.

Let me just put in an unrequested plug: I first found Adult Christianity because I happened upon, the best place for religious, irreligious, and anti-religious swag in the world (and yes, it has all three - just thumb around in there for a while; you'll see what I mean). In the fullness of time, I learned of her blog, and have been reading it ever since.

Anyway, the article which I found so fascinating (and which doesn't seem to be on her Blogspot mirror - maybe I just missed it) is entitled "One More Article Explaining That The Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality." It took a number of ideas that I was already familiar with, one piece of brilliant scholarship, and a number of lesser ideas which were cleverly put together, and melded them into a beautiful, logical whole.

I was entranced. Specifically with her main thesis (which I used as my central thesis in my initial foray into Christian Logic), that two famously homophobic verses from the Bible are simple translation errors. Specifically:
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. (Leviticus 18:22)

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)
See, in the Ancient Hebrew, the verb for "to lie with" used on the "mankind" side of that equation is shakab, and the verb used on the "womankind" side is mishkab. And in the primitive, 30,000-word vocabulary of Ancient Hebrew, it makes no sense to decide that they would have two words with exactly the same meaning.

So what Miss Poppy Dixon did, in a burst of (as I said earlier) brilliant scholarship, was to go through the Ancient Hebrew books of the Bible and count the number of uses of each word (in the original tongue, not the translation), and then consider the usage of each. This simple exercise pointed out the fact that shakab, in the sexual sense, refers to non-consensual coitus (or, to put it bluntly, rape).

Incidentally, I wrote Miss Poppy to thank her for her brilliance, and to be sure that she didn't mind me using her work, and... well, for just being her. Her response was as follows:
Oh, I'm always so afraid to open a post with the subject line "homosexuality," and rehearse in my mind my standard reply, "Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me," but this time I need not have feared.

I appreciate your writing, and even more so your quoting me. I am no scholar. I just spent a couple of hours with a blue letter Bible and put the thing together.

Thanks for linking to me, and for fighting the good fight. It's an important message.

Miss Poppy
So, two things.

1. Despite her erudition, Miss Poppy is not actually aware of the meaning of the word "scholar." Hint: There doesn't have to be a school involved.

2. She's a wonderful, brilliant woman, who I would have to marry if... well, if I wasn't already married. And if she wasn't (I assume).

But anyway, I took her work, and boiled it down to the following few paragraphs.
Let's look at "homosexuality as sin." The primary sources for this belief are the two mistranslated verses from Leviticus, 18:22 and 20:13.

If you go back to the source material, in Ancient Hebrew, you'll find that the verb used for "mankind" is shakab, and the one used for "womankind" is mishkab. And shakab, in its sexual sense, is used when you are talking about forcible sex (such as, say, rape), or any sex against the will of the victim.

For example, shakab is also the word used in Genesis 34:2, when Shechem defiles Hamor the Hivite; and in 2 Samuel 13:14 - "...but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her." And in Isaiah 13:16 - "Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished." It's even used in Exodus 22:19, "Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death."

There are references to consensual sex in the Bible, but none of them, if you look at the source material (before the translation errors crept in) use the word shakab. So the correct translation of the passages from Leviticus is an exhortation against homosexual rape: "Thou shalt not force sexual congress on a man, as (or instead of) with a woman."

Personally, I prefer the Word of God over the Mistranslation of God. Simply because you happen to disapprove of homosexuality, you shouldn't push your own prejudices as the teachings of the Lord.

"But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men." (Matthew 15:9).
Armed with this brief statement, I googled "homosexuality sin" with the filter "blogs", and then sorted by date (to be sure that I was beating on the freshest horse).

I had the following results:

Some blogs moderate their posts, and simply wouldn't allow my words to appear at all. (In fact, I contacted this one to ask if they'd received it, and got a terse "Please see our 'Comments' tab" in response, where they open with "We do not promote false doctrine." So, yeah. Real open-minded guys, there...)

Some blogs, interestingly, moderate after the fact: my response would appear, and then would disappear shortly thereafter. (You know, that seems even more hypocritical than not letting it appear in the first place. At least, it seems that way to me.)

On some blogs, they allowed me to post it, but nobody had an answer.

But thankfully, there were some signs of life in the theological world. After all that, I managed to engage two groups, one evangelical site and one (I came to find out) Mormon site, where they ended with "OK, you stated your case well. I reject it."

(I even had a brief discussion with one kid, who seemed surprised that anybody read his stuff.)

So overall, I think that all I've managed to do is to prove something that I already knew: logic doesn't do a damned thing in arguing with Christians about their beliefs.

And so it goes.