Our son, now 9½, still enjoys having something read to him at bedtime. So, having finished Huck Finn, we’re doing the Bible. He’s never been to Sunday School, so this is his first exposure. We’re working our way through Exodus and I’m developing a real attitude problem about that particular God.
This is a “Children’s Bible” my Mom had in her bookcase, a large lavishly-illustrated production of another era, which seems to be pretty well straight King James text, only with the boring bits and genealogies elided. Well, and the story about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac; one can see why.
It’s a long time since I read this stuff and I guess I’ve changed. Because the Deity depicted in this narrative, particularly Exodus, is really just not very admirable. For example, slaying most of the Egypt’s first-born on a racially-selected basis to penalize its rulers is pretty extreme, but what I’d forgotten is that the Lord explicitly hardened Pharaoh’s heart to ensure that he’d turn Moses and Aaron down and thus bring the plagues on his people: see Exodus 7:3-5.
I could go on, there is lots more I find disturbing, but I won’t. Why should I hold ancient Near Eastern tribal deities to my notion of civilized moral standards?
Anyhow, I’m not editorializing as I read and the boy seems to be enjoying the stories. But I’m going to switch to a standard unabridged text when we get to the New Testament.
Comment feed for ongoing:
From: Maurizio Tomasi (Jan 12 2009, at 01:04)
There are a number of slaughters in the Old Testament simply because this was the common way of living at that time. Old Testament was written by people trying to interpret and write down God's revelations using their language and weltanschaung.
Thus, even if God's message is present in those page, it must be interpreted carefully. One must wait for the New Testament to hear God's message in His own words.
From: Vertis (Jan 12 2009, at 01:53)
I saw your link to this post on twitter and far be it from me to defend the bible (I have my own problems with it). However I feel that you've gotten the wrong idea on a number of items in the text you're reading.
Isaac was given to Abraham when it should not have been possible by God. The willingness to sacrifice Isaac was a test. It was both a test of obedience and a story in a bottle of the sacrifice Christ was to make in the New Testament. God numerous times ordered the Israelites to destroy people with practices such as child sacrifice so it would be inconsistent for him to advocate it at this point. Abraham however was not good at trusting in God to keep his word, his actions around trying to force God's promise before Isaac was evidence of this.
So asking him to sacrifice Isaac was cementing the fact that God had kept half of his promise (giving Abraham a son), God then tests Abraham to see whether he trusts God on the second half of his promise (making a great nation from Abraham's offspring). Abraham has we assume learned his lesson and obeys God.
From: Warren Henning (Jan 12 2009, at 02:03)
Genocide: it's not wrong when our god does it!
From: Abel Avram (Jan 12 2009, at 02:17)
A god we fully understand is no god. It's just our imagination at work.
Chances are God did/will do things you and I may not understand why. Aren't you going to subject to Him because you don't understand Him?
From: unonymous coward (Jan 12 2009, at 04:34)
<em>One must wait for the New Testament to hear God's message in His own words.</em>
Did anybody really hear god's message in His own words? Really?
I heard Him speak to me, many times. I can interpret Him quite well. He is more like the one described in the old testimony than the one in the new.
From: Nobbin Sunar (Jan 12 2009, at 04:44)
I agree, it is a pretty horrible book. One that I personally don't feel any need to read to kids at all. I'm interested to know why you are bothering :) If they are that interested, or just want a laugh, my kids can read it themselves when they are old enough...
Maurizio: On the New Testament, does that include leaving you wife and kids to fend for themselves to follow that particular God? I would say that wasn't a particularly moral teaching, nor telling people they are fundamentally flawed and with sin from birth. Of course, still far better than almost anything in the OT.
From: Bob Aman (Jan 12 2009, at 06:06)
It's interesting that you bring up the thing about God hardening Pharaoh's heart. I'd always thought of it a little differently. Pharaoh's heart was hard to begin with, but not hard enough to be useful. God needed to demonstrate just how powerful he was; he needed to prove that all the might of the most powerful guy around had nothing on the creator of the universe. He wanted the people of Israel to really have something to give glory to God for.
Did that mean people were going to die? Yes. And that's the big difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, people give glory to God when the bad guys die. In the New Testament, people give glory to God when the Good Guy dies.
From: George Ransome (Jan 12 2009, at 06:06)
Responding to: Maurizio Tomasi
## There are a number of slaughters in the Old Testament simply because this was the common way of living at that time. Old Testament was written by people trying to interpret and write down God's revelations using their language and weltanschaung.
## Thus, even if God's message is present in those page, it must be interpreted carefully. One must wait for the New Testament to hear God's message in His own words.
Maurizio seems unaware of how the New testament was "created". While it is clearly a historical document, it was created by (multiple) human hands, each writing from their own perspective on the events. The final selection of the "books" of the New Testament was made several hundred years AFTER everything happened and only used those versions which supported the views of the newly formed "Official Christian Church" (Made official by whom? Quite right, like L. Ron Hubbard, the new church selected itself. :-) )
For those who are interested there are multiple books of the "New Testament" which the church (what became the Catholic Church) choose not to include. A quick bit of searching will pick them up for you.
The bottom line is that all "churches" become human bureaucracies whose actual purpose is to garner power for those inside it.
As a former seminary student I had the opportunity to see this seamy sideshow from behind the curtain.
Did you ever wonder why so many religious leaders get in trouble for sexual mis-conduct? Its because most of them don't actually believe. They choose the occupation of priest because is basically an almost effort free job.
No physical labor, no rigorous technical or professional requirements, no licensing orcertifications, work consists of talking to people a few hours a week. Virtually all your expenses are work related. Only actual requirements for suuccess are schmoozing skills and a good "I'm sincere" affectation. :-)
So where is Cardinal Bernard Law of the Boston Archdiocese these days?
He is in Vatican city, unable to return to the United States because he would be arrested for hundreds of charges of "accessory to sexual molestation of children". Note: he didn't do the molestation himself, he simply kept hiding and protecting the priests who were doing for decades. Why? because he was more concerned with his power base (and its revenue) that he was with protecting the children the church put him in charge of.
Scumbag. But not really any different from most of them (Note "most" does not equal "all" )
From: Drew (Jan 12 2009, at 06:09)
I tend to agree with the other fragment that the OT needs context and careful study to get through. I grew up seeing the God of the OT as angry and Jesus and the Gospel marking an about face. It took a college Old Testament Survey to give me another way of seeing it. I always have to admit a certain dislike of the King James Translation. Whether or not the NRSV is really agenda free or not it's at least a better agenda.
Based on your other statements re:religion you may want see if there are any printings of Thomas Jefferson's edit of the gospel. It's all wisdom teachings no son of god/salvation etc. Not that I'm opposed to you reading the boy the whole deal.
From: Matthew Turland (Jan 12 2009, at 06:29)
One could say the same of the Greek and Roman pantheon; they certainly didn't live up to moral human standards, either. :P
From: len (Jan 12 2009, at 06:49)
From the Book of Job: "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding." I never found that a satisfying answer, but then one can also look at these stories as an evolution of understanding. As texts, these represent the period of the shift from polytheism to monotheism in that region.
Can one trust the texts or is it all about personal revelation or both?
If someone is telling you that Obama is Mighty and Divine, the Lightworker, then they show you his picture next to that of one of history's first monotheists, Akhenaten, and the obvious resemblance causes you to pause, would you take that as a sign of things to come?
Superstitious acquisition is a recurring problem of discovering reality. The point of awe for me is the incredible power of texts over very long periods of time.
From: Mark A. Hershberger (Jan 12 2009, at 06:56)
Fascinating! We read through Genesis and just finished Exodus. I must say, Genesis is a bit more fun. The plan is to read straight through the (recently published) Orthodox version which uses slightly older source material for the translation and more "apocrypha" than the Catholics.
This is the first time I've read straight through like this, so it definitely has a different feel.
From: Anthony B. Coates (Jan 12 2009, at 07:49)
I had a similar issue reading the Old Testament (as Christians call it) to my son. I still find the story of Noah's Ark disturbing, when all the people of the world are drowned, one mid-sized ark accepted.
From: AT (Jan 12 2009, at 08:00)
Is the god depicted by ANY testament something to admire? Be it old, new, Judo-Christian or Muslim; lets face it, god is not a very good role model simply because he was created in man's own image. The man that lived in the tribal desert that is.
From: Rafe (Jan 12 2009, at 08:33)
Given this post, I think you would very much enjoy David Plotz' "Blogging the Bible" series, in which he reads the bible with essentially fresh, adult eyes, and discusses what he finds. It's really, really interesting and a very fun read:
From: John Cowan (Jan 12 2009, at 08:34)
Here's our man William Blake's take on the Old Testament God:
Then old Nobodaddy aloft
Farted & belch'd & cough'd,
And said, "I love hanging & drawing & quartering
Every bit as well as war & slaughtering.
Damn praying & singing,
Unless they will bring in
The blood of ten thousand by fighting or swinging."
(Philological note: the -ing ending was pronounced -in by all classes in Blake's day.)
From: Derek K. Miller (Jan 12 2009, at 08:39)
Nobbin wondered why to read this stuff to your kids. Whatever your opinions of the Bible (and I'm an atheist, so it's not the basis of how I see the world), it's difficult to understand Western society (history, art, etc.) without some familiarity with it, even down to such common terms as "good Samaritan." To comprehend much else, from Shakespeare to Beckett, from the Inquisition to the recent U.S. election, it sure helps too.
Of course, it's also useful to study some Latin and Greek, even if only to make our scientific species naming system more sensible, and not many people do that either. And, I'll say, my kids and I haven't actually read much of the Bible -- or the Qu'ran, or the Vedas -- either.
From: Eric Meyer (Jan 12 2009, at 09:15)
Oh, man, I can't wait until you get to Judges 19-21. It'll either be quite the story for a child to hear; or it'll have been massively sanitized, which is interesting in its own way.
From: David Ing (Jan 12 2009, at 09:37)
Your son sound like an excellent age for something like this essay, as post 'Old Times' detox:
An appropriate Thomas Jefferson quotes (for any patriots reading this morning) would be:
'The Christian God is a being of terrific character -- cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust...'
From: Gavin (Jan 12 2009, at 10:08)
Every time I've tried to read the OT by myself I remained critically distant from the text, like you, being disturbed by those "Near eastern tribal deities" and their unfathomable "civilized moral standards".
But there is a PATTERN that can help dissolve such critical distance:
1st Reading (before=OT)
2nd Reading (after=NT-postGospel) and
The selections for this pattern are typically chosen to MATCH (or contrast) each other and they vary over the calendar year.
They are not in chronological order, nor are they an historical LOG
- whereas the Bible can sometimes be perceived as such.
You might find it helps to pickup the handouts from the sunday service of your local church (catholic does it well) and read the week's patterns - the OT can make more sense that way - the church has been teaching (indoctrinating?) this way for some time now.
Self-taught can mean we are taught by a profoundly ignorant teacher.
This pattern was established by early Christians even before the Gospels were written down
- the Word was Word-of-mouth (echoes of Farenheit 451) assisted by the ear's phonological loop because they in recited in verse and apparently in aramaic "eye" may have rhymed with "camel".
Pity our poor translators! All King James men included.
Hope that helps.
From: mxt (Jan 12 2009, at 10:28)
You might like Douglas Rushkoff's comic/graphic novel "Testament" (not kid friendly).
- - -
Rushkoff brings the prophetic tradition to comics with his first and widely acclaimed graphic novel series for Vertigo, retelling the Bible as a near-future global conflict over currency and reality itself. Humans and gods struggle to dominate a mythic and relevant narrative both within the panels and between them.
- - -
From: Roy (Jan 12 2009, at 11:23)
Was the slaying of Egypt's firstborn racially motivated? Exodus 12:38 refers to a mixed multitude leaving Egypt. The original language indicates strangers, i.e. not ethnically Hebrews, likely including Egyptians. Also, don't forget that the Egyptians themselves had already passed this same judgement on the innocent babies of their Hebrew slaves many years before. Moses was a survivor. There was nothing except their false religious beliefs and practises that would have prevented the Egyptians from surviving the 10th plague. They could have splashed ram's blood on their own doors and saved their firstborn. The ram was sacred to Ra, so they refused to! Devotion to tradition and false religion put before obedience to God--same question facing everyone today. Ram's blood pictured Jesus' and same question arises: obedience, or not!
Did God harden Pharaoh's heart, in the sense of causing it to become hard, at Exodus 7:3? A few verses later, at Exodus 8:15 and 32, you can see that Pharaoh himself hardened his heart. So what does it mean at 7:3? Other translations render the original Hebrew somewhat more accurately compared to the King James, e.g. The Emphasised Bible by Rotherham translates Exodus 7:3 to English as, "But, I, will suffer Pharaoh to harden his heart." In the original Hebrew, causation is not necessarily implied as in English. Compare this with Exodus 1:17 where the midwives are literally in Hebrew said to "cause the male children to live" (Hebrew chayah, see http://scripturetext.com/exodus/1-17.htm). King James translates this to "let!" So, God did not cause Pharaoh's heart to harden; He merely permitted what was already there to manifest itself.
Careful, thorough reading is necessary, I agree. But interpretation (previous comment) is not, if you mean interpreting away the accounts. The God of the Bible is a god of love, yes, but also of justice. Everyone likes the first, but not everyone likes the second (i.e. everyone who rejects God's standards of right and wrong). Yet justice is integral to love. The basic message of the destruction accounts is that life is not a right, it's a gift from God. Humanity's obligation is to use life wisely according to God's standards--all His standards. Divine judgement ultimately awaits all godless people. You reap what you sow! That's justice. Justice where necessary, mercy where possible. That's the God of the Bible, Old and New Testaments.
From: len (Jan 12 2009, at 11:27)
As to Noah and many other stories of the Torah, Books of the Prophets and so on, you might note to you son that the texts have been purged. The Noah stories don't make much sense unless you have access to the Book of Enoch, one of the banned texts that was incredibly popular before the time of the New Testament and which was assumed prior to the councils to be a normative reference by some and at least informative by others.
Drowning people was only part of the agenda. Getting rid of the Nephilim and their spawn was another. Or so the texts go.
From: John Turnbull (Jan 12 2009, at 11:52)
Of course it has to be read so that, as Derek points out, our culture can be understood.
What's most important, for us atheists, is that it is a book written by people. It has a pivotal place in history ... so there was a before and there is an after.
We're pretty closely agreed on the "after" -- we reject this particular OT view of moral behavior. The "before" needs more public exposure and study. A good place to start is at the British Library. Spend a half-hour staring at the Codex Sinaiticus speculating on how the people created the Book.
From: Joel Hockey (Jan 12 2009, at 13:37)
Did you read Genesis? It sounds like you did since you mention Abraham and Isaac. I'd definitely go back to it if you skipped it
From: Graham Smith (Jan 12 2009, at 15:39)
Now if he were a couple of years younger, I would have suggested reading "Children of the Voice", a retelling of the Pilgrim's Progress.
IIRC there's also a "Children of the Voice 2"
From: Steven Citron-Pousty (Jan 12 2009, at 17:11)
What you might want to do is look at all the rabbinic interpretation of these "simplistic" stories (my quotes not yours). There is a long and rich interpretation of people who have spent their lives understanding these texts with much more subtlety than a children's book or a single read. Especially be careful of English/Christian translations (especially King James) since there are many meanings to Hebrew words and a slight change in context can have a large change in meaning.
There are devout Jews throughout the ages who have also struggled with the intentions of G-D and the test of Abraham or the hardening of Pharoh's heart.
I don't have to tell you that you are free to your own interpretation but I also want to let you know there is a much richer literature that has spent generations working through this "text".
Some of the literature is offensive and xenophobic and some is beautiful and compassionate.
From: DanF (Jan 12 2009, at 20:19)
I'm an atheist with first born on the way. Interesting thread, I suppose I actually do buy the reading the bible for "cultural capital" as one might sum up the argument that it is needed to understand Western civilization (with a capital W).
When I read the bible for a class at the University we used the New Oxford Annotated bible which I thought was excellent.
From: Quietone (Jan 13 2009, at 00:52)
"I learned that it doesn’t matter in the least that I be convinced of God’s existence. Whether or not God exists is none of my business, really. What do I know of existence? I don’t even know how the VCR works."
From: Nobbin Sunar (Jan 13 2009, at 04:47)
Derek and John: Understanding our culture is is certainly a good point to raise in favour of reading the bible to ones children when an atheist, and I have heard Richard Dawkins say the same thing.
However, I just don't quite buy into it. I fully admit that there is a lot which would become clearer with a vague understanding of what is in the bible, but as with everything, if you don't understand something, you look it up.
The point I am stuck on I suppose is that, of all the things you could read to your children, with the finite amount of time there is to do it, it just seems to me like there is soooo many other, more educational, more exciting and more useful things to read.
To make matters worse, if I read them the bible, I would also want to read them the Koran, the Torah and at least one non-abrahamic book...
From: Simon Phipps (Jan 13 2009, at 06:35)
Wow, here's a discussion I never expected to see on Ongoing.
Talking of hardened hearts, I sense a whole load of them (of all convictions) in the comment-stream above. For me, reading Marcus Borg helped immensely with the sorts of reactions Tim describes.
From: Joel N (Jan 13 2009, at 13:10)
I was raised Catholic, going to Catholic school from kindergarten to university and was this close to entering the seminary.
However, I've recently seen the light and have become a secular humanist after some hesitation and trepidation.
It's so much easier to go with the flow and fit in, but I, like George Ransome, just couldn't explain away and rationalize the preponderance of evidence that it is Us who created God.
I came to this realization after long discussions with my friends & family, my former parish priest (t'was a very interesting conversation, mind you) and by even reading as much as I can from the Christian Apologetic literature.
If you think about it - Religion was the first Science, and it was very useful back when the gaps in our knowledge were so vast that our minds just demanded an explanation.
I'm not saying that Modern Science can now explain everything, but I've come to accept that there are certain things that we just "don't know".
And even though we keep expanding the boundaries of our knowledge, there are just certain things that will be beyond our understanding.
However, "not knowing" doesn't give us the license to concoct fantastic supernatural explanations. Of the hundreds of belief systems out there, which one are we to believe? Ron Hubbard? Urantia? the God of Bakker, Falwell, Haggard and Osteen? Allah? Jesus (even though most of the "historical" accounts leave a lot of room for doubt and conflicting interpretations)? Maitreya?
For the most part, the religion you follow is an accident of birth and circumstance.
Also, going through history, its amazing how Religion was twisted by the powers-that-be to serve their own worldly purposes.
And you only have to turn on the news to see that Religion is often at the root of most long-running conflicts as each side is convinced of their own Truth and their irreconcilable differences are based on their respective, misguided beliefs.
I'm not saying there is no God. What I'm just saying is that "we don't know" which of the many gods put forth is the real one.
If I were born in Saudi Arabia, is it more likely than not that I would worship Allah? If I were born into a Hindu family, wouldn't I, in all likelihood, venerate all 330,000 Deities because that is what my parents told me?
Ask yourself - have you even tried learning about other Religions? How can you pass judgement on something you hardly know? What if you were born into the wrong Religion?
What I do know is that Humanity is in the same Boat, with each Religion convinced of their own mutually-exclusive Truths. And if We continue with what we're doing now, how much longer can We sustain ourselves?
What I do suggest is to start your child in Comparative Religion and guide her in her Journey of Discovery.
I for one just had a daughter last year and I went through all the Catholic traditions and I will raise her a Catholic in her early years. (much the same way I will indulge her in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy)
But as soon as she is a bit older and starts asking me the Big Questions, I aim to introduce her to Comparative Studies and let her arrive on her own conclusion.
From: len (Jan 13 2009, at 13:55)
"To make matters worse, if I read them the bible, I would also want to read them the Koran, the Torah and at least one non-abrahamic book..."
And you should. It is helpful for children and adults to have knowledge of the frames others in the world use for reference. In Hofstede's book on Culture and Dimensions for International Business, he has a model in which symbols are the first layer one should understand followed by heroes, rituals and finally values. If nothing else, religion plays a significant role in symbolic communication, so it pays to understand why a swastika is bad in one conversation but not in some Hindu temples.
That said, in my experience, I didn't buy into the religion of my family on face value. I did explore as many belief systems as I could expose myself to to find what was common, and having done that, I became comfortable with my wife's church not because of the texts, but because their shared beliefs create in them an urgency of community. The sign shouldn't say "You choose God and you can be with us"; it says "God chooses you and we can be with you."
I find it hard to accept the universe is designed by an intelligent being. I find it easy to accept that the universe designed intelligent beings. I don't even worry about the purposefulness of that because logic will not admit first cause and science is not a belief system; it is a system of hypothesis and testing and as long as results fit under the curve of the hypothesis and enable me to make reliable predictions, science works.
Religion enables me to assert emotional hypotheses and perform similar tests. I am my brother's keeper because he is mine. That is... good enough.
From: Nobbin Sunar (Jan 13 2009, at 14:08)
Joel: Sounds like I came to non-belief through the same sorts of reasons as you. Raise her as a Catholic at first though? I'm not sure I really understand what that means... Surely she is not a Catholic unless she is old enough to choose herself? I hope you are at least not indoctrinating her and then trying to sort the mess out later! ;) There is a reason religions try to get at them young...
From: Joel N (Jan 13 2009, at 16:59)
Nobbin: Don't worry. I won't be indoctrinating her. :)
That's why I made the Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy reference.
Inasmuch as I'd like to start teaching her Modern Biology, Anthropology and the Scientific Method, I'm afraid I've yet to see some children's book on those topics ;)
One good thing about Religion is the sense of community - and coming from a strong Catholic background, a lot of my relatives still practice and I think its OK for her to socialize and become familiar with the "stories", rituals and traditions which are often excuses for get-togethers.
Slowly though, I intend to introduce her to other religious "stories" (surely all the Abrahamic religions, and maybe Hindu, Jainism and maybe a dash of Greek mythology).
Using my own experience as a frame of reference, I also think its useful that there was a time that I was a very devout Catholic and I had my own awakening. The same way I do not want her to be indoctrinated in Sunday school, I do not want to push secular humanism down her throat.
I want her to arrive at that conclusion herself. I just want to facilitate the Journey.
From: Joel N (Jan 13 2009, at 17:39)
And one more thing - I'll be sure to introduce her to the wonders of Discovery.
I'll cultivate and nurture her curiosity, and inculcate in her that the natural world itself has much to offer that inspires awe and wonder. I'll let her explore different cultures & societies and revel in the Journey of Exploration.
And show her that there are other ways to find Meaning - that is, that she can do so herself by defining her own Purpose.
And that her little contribution to Humanity, however big or trivial it may be, will be her Legacy - her Immortality.
From: Brian (Jan 13 2009, at 23:39)
The thing about God is the it's easy for him to create or take away life. It's all a big game when you have, well, God power. We must all look like little characters on a video board. Easy come, easy go.
From: Nobbin Sunar (Jan 14 2009, at 04:36)
Joel: Sounds great. This is kind-of the strategy that I am intending on taking. Giving them a balanced view and let them decide for themselves. Anyway, after showing them the wonders of the real world, I can't imagine them finding much interest in taking bronze-age religions seriously.
As for science books, I can't disagree more! The book that got my 6 year old daughter really excited about science is "George's Secret Key to the Universe" (fiction) by Lucy and Stephen Hawking, especially after carrying out the static-ruler-water experiment. That was my "way in". Excellent book. We now read quite a few non-fiction books on space/cosmology, including a few books on experiments you can do at home. She chooses for us to read them, which is great :)
As for biology, not having as much success there, though she loves animal documentaries. I have read her "The Tree of Life: The Wonders of Evolution", but that was... well a bit rubbish really (i.e. not very exciting). I have found this link: http://www.charliesplayhouse.com/Bibliography.pdf which I plan to use to find something better.
From: Greg (Jan 18 2009, at 23:41)
You can read the old testament as a biography of god. Yes there are attitude problems, but he grows up. I never noticed the progression the first time around. There was a book a few years ago called "God, a biography" that talks about it.
From: SamGoody (Jan 19 2009, at 01:14)
Free will is an essential facet of life.
The idea of hardening Paro's heart is to offer him free will. [His ability to choose was obviously impaired after seeing the first plagues, and his heart was hardened to the point that he should have the option of saying "no" again.] Notice that the first references to hardening the heart are somewhere around the fifth plague.
The Egyptian people were very much deserving of punishment - it was they that the Jews worked for. [A little bit of understanding of the caste in ancient Egypt would help, or an understanding of what they expected the Jew to do, but is too long to go into.] Amazingly, had Paro just agreed to give them their three day excursion, the retribution would have been averted - G-d had put them into slavery and was originally planning on keeping them there another couple of hundred years.
But by the time the plagues were halfway through, there was just no more option of going back into the slavery. That's hardly punishing the people because of their ruler.
Also, your reference to "an ancient Diety" belies the fact that He is the only Diety accepted by all the major religions. [Original Judaism has curiously forked into Christianity and Islam, etc. Budhism is impartial.]
It is wise not to hold him to your standards, but you would do well to try to get a better picture of what was really historically going on.
From: Alex G (Jan 19 2009, at 14:01)
bible isn't a place to draw one's morals from... it has some common sense stuff that anyone living in a modern society today would get... but the bad stuff is just terrible...
Killing a man for picking up wood on saturday?
Sacrificing a daughter because she was the first one to walk through the door (but only after she headed to the mountains to sleep around)?
Or even Lot, the only guy "worthy" enough to be spared from Sodom... had incest with his two daughters afterward, but not before offering them to the crowd a raping...
i'm proud to be an atheist :)
From: Reinout van Rees (Jan 22 2009, at 11:56)
Good bedtime story value: both books of Samuel, perhaps with the short story of Ruth as a prequel.
You get a couple of war stories, a giant (Goliath), a sometimes-cranky prophet/priest, two kings of varying quality, friendship, chasing of public enemies, an attempted coup.
This part of the bible is hard to beat for story value. The only contender would be one of the gospels.
Happy bible reading :-)
From: Pat (Jan 26 2009, at 03:57)
It is my belief that God had no intention that Abraham actually killing his son, but just testing him.