Sunday, 18 February 2007

Today's Bible reading: Divorce & Castration

Important advice this morning from the Bible on divorce and castration.
Matthew 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
19:10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
19:11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
19:12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
What the fuck is he talking about? Quite simply, according to many people's favourite ethicist:
  1. It is not good to marry.
  2. If you do marry, it is not good to divorce (except if it be for fornication).
  3. It is better, all things considered, to make yourself a eunuch "for the kingdom of heaven's sake."
Sheesh. Do let me know how you get on with that.

UPDATE: Lucyna at Sir Hump's responds here (and in the comments below), but misinterprets my rhetorical question above. Ah well.

LINKS: Matthew 19 - Skeptics Annotated Bible
On marriage and castration - The Brick Testament

RELATED: Religion, Nonsense


  1. I see some pointing alright Lucyna, but where's the laughing??

  2. don't marry... do marry...don't fornicate...don't divorce...clear enough i would have thought...the lord is righteous

  3. I see some pointing alright Lucyna, but where's the laughing??

  4. You talking to yourself here, AJ?

    Frankly, there is a point. All the foolishness and all the ethical contradictions in the 'Good Book'(as Leelion summarises, this week it's "don't marry... do marry...don't fornicate...don't divorce..."), and it is this: Set up an impossible ethical standard, and then cash in on it with guilt.

    Make an ethical standard that no human being could possibly follow (Give up, give up, give up!), and then lead the poor sinner to 'salvation.' A poor sinner is easily led, even to the person who says he's a sinner.

    As Ayn Rand pointed out, when someone's promoting sacrifice, there's always someone there collecting all the sacrifices.

    It works the same with guilt: Once they make you guilty, then they've got you.

    Don't buy the package deal.

  5. So who's cashing in on my guilt Peter? Given I haven't even heard divorce and sexual immorality preached against from the pulpit in my church this last year. Gien I haven't even heard the Cross of Christ preached, or heard anyone being led through the sinners prayer. Given we haven't even had a paid vicar the last 8 months.

    If you really have an issue with paid ministers you should look upthe Brethren in your local area. They don't believe in it either. I'd love to see the look on their faces when you talk about guilt being a socially induced feeling that picks their pockets!!

    It's a bit wide christian world Mr Cresswell. You ought to get out more before you start making a fool of yourself.

    Your feelings of guilt are not socially induced. They are just part of being human.

  6. PC,

    I know your purpose in doing these posts is not to understand what it is you are reading, but rather to point out the ridiculousness of Christianity.

    But, if you or anyone else truly wish to understand what is meant by the excerpt you have highlighted, I would recommend

    Virginity or Celibacy for the Sake of the Kingdom, which btw, is what is meant by becoming a eunuch for the Kingdom of Heaven. It's got nothing to do with physical castration and the call is not for everyone.

    The above link I've given is No 73 in a series of lectures Pope John Paul II gave over 5 years and is the beginning of the section on celibacy.

  7. Thanks for your response, Lucyna.

    The purpose of the posts is indeed to point out the ridiculousness of Christianity -- that much is true -- and also perhaps to point out that much of what is in the Bible is either unknown to people like the poor un-vicared AJ for example; or is cherry-picked by those who get out a bit more than AJ seems to; or just so ridiculous that "learned Christians" need to suggest, for example, that clear exhortations to eunuch-hood are in fact calls for something else, celibacy for instance.

    The point is that that Bible says what it says, and much of it is either nonsense or dripping with blood-thirst, but so many Christians themselves don't even seem aware of what their Bible says, or how violent and absurd much of it is.

    And the fact that most Christians do cherrypick from their Bible suggests that no Christian really finds it possible to completely follow what the Bible commands (and contra to AJ, that's not a failing of human beings, it's a failure of the Bible, and of Christian morality).

    Christians often suggest for example that non-Christians don't know where our morals come from. But as Richard Dawkins illustrates in 'The God Delusion,' neither do the religiously minded.

    He points out that no modern Christian or Jew would be likely to follow the Old Testament moral examples of Abraham (Genesis) and Jephthah (Judges) who both were willing to offer their children as human sacrifices to please God. Nor are they likely to share the morals of Lot (Genesis) and a Levite priest (Judges), who when demanded by a mob to hand over their male guests to sodomise, offered up their own daughters for rape instead.

    These are stories I've 'run' here at 'Not PC' for the very reasons I note above.

    Dawkins notes:

    "…we do not as matter of fact derive our morals from scripture. Or, if we do, we pick and choose among the scriptures for the nice bits and reject the nasty. But then we must have some independent criterion for deciding which are the moral bits: a criterion which, wherever it comes from, cannot come form scripture itself and is presumably available to all of us whether we are religious or not."

    So Christians don't have a monopoly on morality, and given what's really in the Bible, I think we can all say "Thank God for that." ;^)

  8. Maybe the God squad would care to address this piece then...

    Letter to God.

  9. James, that would take quite a while. Is there something in particular you want answered?

  10. PC,

    The Bible is very compressed. You only have to look at the volumes and volumes of works produced over centuries explaining The Bible to understand just how compressed it really is. There's even a comment from John in there that says something to the effect that it would have been impossible to write down everything Jesus said and did because there was just too much.

    So, you get something like what you've pointed out here and then find that Pope John Paul spent a number of weeks explaining the bit about eunuchs and then bringing in into context with a number of other small excerpts that are huge in meaning.

    What I do when I don't know what something means, is I look it up via a trusted source. God didn't just give us a Bible and go there ya go, it's all up to us (the unlearned) to interpret it and muddle about. He gave us a Church to first create the book and then interpret it. So I go to the Church to find out what something means. And you'll find most Christians (most of whom are Catholic) use the Church to interpret the Bible as their authority. Though, there are large numbers that disagree with what the Church teaches, but then that's another story.

    So, it's not so much cherry-picking, it's more distilling the message down to the essence of what Christ taught. And those that want to know more now have vast online resources to take advantage of.

    Your two examples are interesting. I guess that the whole idea of a loving God testing a man to the point where he almost killed his own son as a sacrifice to be abhorrent. Yet, there was intervention at the last moment. It was only a test, though one could say the greatest test of all. A test that has never been repeated. I'm not sure what the problem is with God testing Abraham in this way.

    As for Lot, isn't that just a historical record of what happened rather than some sort of moral guide? Maybe someone else could comment here as I'm pressed for time to look it up.

    I agree, Christians do not have a monopoly on morality. All human beings were created in God's image and He wrote the basic moral laws into each of our hearts so that it would be possible for us to get to Him even if we had never come across His Word. We all have a sense of that on some level.

    But what Christianity is, is God's plan taken to the couple of levels past what is just written in your heart. God becomes human, suffers and dies and then defeats death and the reign of Satan on Earth. We're at the "almost, but not yet" stage in the plan.

    Added to all that is spiritual help given to us by Christ, that was written down in the Bible and carried on in His Church. This spiritual help is available to anyone who wants it.

  11. Lucyna and a.j. chesswas - the Bible quotes posted here by P.C are controversial because they have never been dealt with by Christianity - because in the modern world, they cannot be. Just as Koranic quotes cannot be justified in the modern world either. And if you say they are symbolic, then symbolic of what?

    As someone raised in Christianity, (and I still have two Presbyterian Ministers in the family), I understand it, and, unlike the majority of Christians, I have read the Bible.

    Last year I got sick of the moralizing (unintential on his part) of a Christian I met through work. A very nice guy he is. Anyway, I gave him some quotes to look up. Not just random Bible quotes but a number of linked quotes and biblical threads and themes, including the one I hate the most where Moses encourages mass murder and the rape of innocents.

    This nice Christian guy was shocked and made a appointment to see his priest and told others of the quotes and he said it "went down like a cup of cold sick."

    I quite like the historical Jesus, and the Bible contains a bit of almost everything and has some good lessons, poetry and messages etc. but it also contains a lot, (and I mean a lot), of violent and sexual madness - especially the old testament.

    That said, at least the old testament's nastiness was for this life only - its the new testament that promises eternal hellfire - a repugnant thing if ever there was and something to be condemned as absolutely immoral.

    I could go on and on but if you want to continue a discussion somewhere else then reply to this post.

  12. Lucyna,

    YOu seem to be very happy to set yourself up as an independent interpreter of God. May I invite you to look back over what you wrote, see how often you wrote "God is such and such," and "Christiantity is so and so," and establish for yourself on what basis you can say those things? From whence your evidence comes? Because it seems to me that you're simply asserting what you would like to be true, rather than what is true, or what scripture says is true -- which rather validates Dawkins's point, I suspect.

    You said, "The Bible is very compressed. "

    You mean like the writing of Ernest Hemingway? But despite Hemingway supposedly writing "as of only the tip of the iceberg is showing," we're still fairly clear about what Hemingway said, aren't we. (It isn't like the Bible is written by Joyce, in which case we really would have no idea what he was saying, if anything.) If we can deduce for ourselves and with some reasonable skull-sweat what Hemingway said, then are you're suggesting that your damn Bible is so damn foggy that we simply can't read it without the intervening interpretation of some goddamn authority -- interpretation that even changes the clear meaning of words!

    Eunuch == celibacy! How 'bout that! If your source is telling you that, then I'm not sure quite frankly that it's an authority to be trusted.

    Because celibacy does not equal eunuch-hood, does it. A eunuch will be celibate out of necessity, but there are many more reasons to be celibate (none of them very good, in my expreience).

    And Voluntary celibacy (which priests are supposed to endure) is very different to self-castration (which Jesus invites), isn't it. One is tortuous; the other is barbaric. (Incidentally, this issue one theme of Wagner's opera 'Parsifal, by the way, and ninteteenth-century audiences certainly understood what Wagner was expressing in the character of Klingsor, just as they do now.)

    But you advise (off your own bat, it seems) that we shouldn't take the meaning straight. That we need to bring the whole passage "into context with a number of other small excerpts."

    Very well, then.

    Bear in mind that this guy (Jesus) says this - ie., it is better to make yourself a eunuch "for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it" -- he says it in the full context of having recommended cutting off other body parts if they cause you to sin: "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out," (Mt.5:29-30) "Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire." (Mt.18:8-9) "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:" (Mk.9:43-48)

    But these are metaphors, you say? Really? Let's have some more context.

    Bear in mind that a woman's hand should be amputated if she touches a man's genital (Dt.25:11-12), that the thumbs and big toes of prisoners of war should be amputed, (Judges 1:4-6), and that sometimes Sometimes your God causes noses and ears to be amputated and forces women to pluck off their own breasts (Ezekiel 23:25, 34).

    It all makes God's exhortation to Abraham to murder his own son look positively humane by comparison, doesn't it. And you ask why the story of Abraham is important?

    The importance is that Abraham is revered by two religions for his virtue, for which this story of how we was unquestioningly prepared to slit his own son's throat is one of the chief examples. This, we are shown, is what virtue looks like.

    Since you ask, that point is precisely why this example is so important.

    The same lesson inheres in the story of Lot. The Bible tells us God spared him because of his virtue, yet the only demonstration we have of his virtue is that who when demanded by a mob to hand over his male guests to sodomise, he offered up his own daughters for rape instead -- and this, according to your Book, was at your God's bidding!

    So much for Biblical demonstrations of virtue! Why not play-act Lot's story at next weekend's Sunday School class?

    If you read the damn Bible, you realise it's full of this stuff --(just check out its Guide to Torture, for example), which is why I post a 'Point and Laugh"every week. It's only possible to imagine people taking it seriously when you realise that many people did take it seriously -- for far too many centuries -- and you look across that "wasteland of crosses and graves," and those two blood-drenched religions that came from Abraham.

    No wonder the Catholic Church was opposed to the Gutenberg Bible being made widely available. No wonder the Church wanted to keep scripture close, and interpret this stuff for itself. Imagine what people might do when they read this nonsense for themselves!

    The point here is that neither you nor the Pope nor AJ Chesswas can interpret the Bible aces wild: words mean what they say, and it says what it says -- and what it says is foul beyond words.

    If this stuff is the truly the Word of God (as you appear to believe it is) then you cannot simply cherrypick your Bible for the stuff you like, nor reinterpret it in order to make of it something it's not. If you believe God wrote it, then surely you must believe God meant it, no? Or do you think he might have made mistakes -- mistakes that you and your Pope can correct? Or do you think that he meant to trick you, by writing it all in code, like James Joyce?

    Or is he testing you like Abraham, by offering you barbarity to see if you're obedient enough to follow?

    In summary, it's clear enough -- as Dawkins charges -- that you (and the Pope) do pick and choose among the scriptures for the nice bits, and that you reject -- or "reinterptret" -- the nasty. As Dawkins concludeS, in doing this then you "must have some independent criterion for deciding which are the moral bits: a criterion which, wherever it comes from, cannot come fromm scripture itself and is presumably available to all of us whether we are religious or not."

    Get that? In reinterpreting scripture, both you and your Pope are saying that you yourself have some independent criterion for deciding which are the moral bits; meaning you accept that morality does not come from scripture, and indeed that scripture frequently runs counter to morality.

    That does not mean, as you suggest it does, that this independent criterion comes from God -- that he "wrote the basic moral laws into each of our hearts," you say. What it does in fact and in reality mean is that we are each free to either borrow from others or to deduce from reality our own rules for living -- as we do. We are free, in other words, to deduce our rules of living from this world, rather from hand-me-downs from supposed gatekeepers of the next - and many of us do.

    In short, we have no need of your God's "spiritual help," even if such a thing existed.
    It's time Christians themselves learned how to stand on their two feet, without the crutch provided by this imaginary friend.

  13. PC,

    First off, I'm sorry I mocked you. I wrote the post on SH before I slept on it and then commented here.

    Since then I have had time to think.

    You do raise some valid points. And a number of points that are just plain wrong - as is your prerogative to do so.

    I'll try and answer some of those later, but I need to say one thing before I continue cooking dinner. My God is not just my God. I don't own Him and I am not any sort of authoritative interpreter of His Word. He's the God of everyone, whether they choose to acknowledge Him or not.

  14. "First off, I'm sorry I mocked you."

    Hey, mocking's fine. I tend to do a little of it myself, especially after the third drink. :-)

    I look forward to continuing as much of the debate as you care to.


  15. PC,

    Where does my evidence come from?

    Such a general question. It would be like asking you where your evidence comes from that Libertarianism actually works. Not for the same underlying reason of course, but more so because the variety of sources that you've gathered your information from over your lifetime has lead you to trust certain sources, certain ways of thinking.

    Likewise with myself. I'm a reverted Catholic. For 22 years I had no religion. Then over the last couple of years a whole lot of stuff came together. Can I point to any one thing that I would call "my evidence"? No.

    However, I've had a couple of signs that what I've been doing has been the right thing - that to trust the teachings of the Catholic Church is right.

    It is quite possible, though, that I've misinterpreted some things that I've read and/or interspersed truth with presumptions.

    So, as I said, don't consider me an authoritative source. The link I gave previously explains in detail how JPII has interpreted the sentences about eunuchs as really being about celibacy. Note - not reinterpreted, but interpreted. You ought to read it.

    Now the valid point that you've brought up really comes back to how you read the Bible. You assume the worst of it as you read it. Luckily you do not believe what it is you are reading, because if you read it in that way and believed it - then society could have a problem! You could start advocating a certain number of men get castrated in order to fulfil Biblical commands. But, as I said, luckily you don't believe what you are reading as you cherry-pick out what you assume to be the worst of the Bible without really trying to understand what it is you are reading.

    I think there is also a danger that a person who believes could do the same thing. Especially if they are looking for justification of bad behaviour.


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