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Christian Morality

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of AtheismA couple weeks ago when I was checking out websites in preparation for my entry, The Bible on The History Channel - A Disappointing Adaptation, I came across the following page, Week 1 : In the Beginning / Exodus, part of an episode guide to the series. This particular episode contained the incident of Abraham following God's command to take his son Isaac to the top of a mountain to sacrifice him, only to have the human sacrifice stopped at the last second. As I've written a few times before, I knew I was on my path away from Christianity the day I heard this story and questioned its moral.

The episode guide had a bit of discussion on this story, and offered the following lesson.

Faith and obedience. If we obey God only when his command 1) makes sense to us and 2) we agree that it is good, then we are not really obeying God's commands as an expression of trust in his wisdom and his character. Instead, we are merely complying with God's requests only after he has justified himself at the bar of our own moral or intellectual understanding. Will we obey, or merely comply? Will he be the authority, or will we?

That right there is one of the biggest problems with religion. It stunts the development of people's moral compasses. Instead of being moral agents who must try their hardest to determine the best way to behave, people are reduced to slaves following orders. What type of morality can it be to blindly follow rules with no thought given to their consequences?

And even just pretending that there were some truth to Christianity, this blind obedience to God's commands doesn't make sense. Most Christians don't believe in just Yahweh, but also in Satan and his demons. How are we mere mortals to distinguish whether a command is coming from the one true God, or if we're being deceived by the Devil? The only thing we could do is try to determine whether the command was good or not, and only follow the ones that we deemed to be good.

Blind obedience is not a positive trait. We should take responsibility for our own actions, and always try our best to determine the consequences of our actions before we do them. Religion should not be an excuse to shirk that responsibility.


I always thought the moral of this story was that you should NOT follow god blindly.

I thought God came down to tell Abraham that he should not kill his son, not even if God himself told him.

I though that Abraham failed the test, and that God taught him a lesson. To me it has always been a beautiful story, one of my core values as a Lutheran.

I am not very religious, and do understand that all the holy books are written by men, but I really had the idea that they did contain very profound and true moral. It now seems that I have misunderstood

Well, you can go read the story for yourself in Genesis 22. I'm afraid your previous interpretation was understanding the story as you wanted it to be, not as it is. Here's a relevant excerpt, from what the angel of the Lord said to Moses.

By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.

Moses passed the test. Because he showed total devotion to God, God was going to bless him. If Moses had withheld his son, then he wouldn't have been blessed by God.

As far as how profound and moral the rest of the Bible is, it depends. I'm actually in the process of reading the whole Bible right now (you can follow along in the series, Friday Bible Blogging). I'm only about 1/6 of the way in, but even at this point one of the things that has struck me is how varied the different books are, and even how much variation there is within individual books. You wrote that you understand that the Bible was written by men. Well, that's true, and it was a lot of different men, at different times. And sometimes one editor would pull in parts from different stories that had already been written down, or combine different versions of the same story. There was no single author who wrote the entire Bible, or even one small group who put it all together. It's a patchwork, with information coming from people with very different views. So, while you get horrible stories like the binding of Isaac, and horrible rules like how to treat slaves, there's also some good in there, like not taking a person's coat as security for a loan (lest they freeze to death in the cold night). My point is, the Bible contains both good and bad, so it shouldn't be held up as something sacred and beyond question. If you're going to read the Bible, you should be just as critical of its moral lessons as any other source, maybe even moreso given the time and culture that produced it.

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