Conversations: Biblical Wisdom

We know that questions of morality are questions about happiness and suffering.

That is why you and I do not have moral obligations toward, say, rocks?

Exactly, to the degree that our actions can affect the experience of other conscious creatures positively or negatively, questions of morality apply.

I understand. That is why, for instance, the idea that the Bible is a perfect guide to morality is simply astounding, given the contents of the book.

Indeed, I have been doing some research; consider God’s counsel to parents, it is quite straightforward: whenever children get out of line, we should beat them with a rod (Proverbs 13:24,20:30, and 23:13-14). If they are shameless enough to talk back to us, we should kill them (Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18-21, Mark 7:9-13, and Matthew 15:4-7). We must also stone people to death for heresy, adultery, homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, worshipping graven images, practising sorcery, and a wide variety of other imaginary crimes.

Yes, that is all very well and good, but does that not seem like cherry-picking the most violent and evidently immoral and graphic passages?

I do not see how. If the foundations of a certain faith, philosophy or ‘way of life’ can be traced back to a few sources, or even one source, surely everyone is free to cite parts of that source?

Fair enough, but what about the people who argue they choose not to adhere to all those frightfully immoral statements?

– How is that not cherry-picking?

WelI, I do not want to waste everybody’s time by opening up something as sordid as a Judeo-Christian scripture debate, but just consider the following passage “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18).

Quite so. You see, I think it’s fair to say that most Christians believe that Christianity is an unrivalled source of human goodness. They believe that the Bible is the most profound book ever written and that its contents have stood the test of time so well that it must have been divinely inspired. Now, like I said, given the contents of the book, this belief is incredibly short-sighted at best, and immensely idiotic at worst.

(Based on: Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 5)

See other: Philosophical Conversations

4 thoughts on “Conversations: Biblical Wisdom

  1. Quite so. As Christians we were the ones cherry picking around the more violent and objectionable passages. As deconverted Christians, we now see that we were the ones being dishonest and inconsistent with what the bible actually said. Thx for this post

  2. First, research into moral psychology shows that, like language, though there’s an innate capacity for altruism, fairness, justice, and cooperation, there’s a developmental path from infancy through childhood and into adolescence to an understanding of right and wrong– no, we aren’t born with a sense of right and wrong.

    Second, if we get our morality from a god, why is it that our moral intuitions are so radically different from his? Why do we agree that women are entitled to equal rights and opportunities and yet this god views them as property, as a commodity to be traded, bought and sold? Why do we agree that genocide is wrong while he not only permits it, but encourages it, even urges it? Why do we agree that slavery is wrong and yet he not only permits it but even provides rules governing the institution? Why do we agree on the value of religious freedom and yet he dictates slaughter for anyone that would dare worship another god than he?

    Third, evidence from behavior of other species and from research into moral psychology in humans shows that morality is an evolved behavior, with precursor (proto-morality) behaviors like altruism, reciprocity, fairness, justice, empathy and others existing in other species with an understanding of these basic concepts in babies as young as only a few months. This means that morality was around way before religion was, and certainly way before the Yahwist cult or its subsequent permutations in Christianity and Islam were around.

    So, as a theist, if you would argue that way, you would be, and are, wrong.

    Let’s look at proto-morality among out nearest relatives:


    Concern for others:


  3. In the first image, a little girl had been injured, falling into a gorilla pit at a zoo. The gorilla immediately scooped her up and cradled her until help arrived. The look on the gorilla’s eyes seems to be silently imploring someone to come and take over. If she had no sense of compassion, she would have sniffed the unconscious child a few times, out of curiosity, then moved on to something more interesting, but she didn’t, she cared.

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