A correspondent of the Drawer is involved in domestic perplexities. He writes:
‘I got acquainted with a young widow, who lived with her step-daughter in the same house. I married the widow; my father fell, shortly after it, in love with the step-daughter of my wife, and married her. My wife became the mother-in-law and also the daughter-in-law of my own father; my wife’s step-daughter is my step-mother, and I am the step-father of my mother-in-law. My stepmother, who is the step-daughter of my wife, has a boy: he is naturally my step-brother, because he is the son of my father and of my step-mother; but because he is the son of my wife’s step-daughter so is my wife the grandmother of the little boy, and I am the grandfather of my step-brother. My wife has also a boy: my step-mother is consequently the step-sister of my boy, and is also his grandmother, because he is the child of her step-son; and my father is the brother-in-law of my son, because he has got his step-sister for a wife. I am the brother of my own son, who is the son of my step-mother; I am the brother-in-law of my mother, my wife is the aunt of her own son, my son is the grandson of my father, and I am my own grandfather.’
– Harper’s Magazine, April 1865
It appears that some people are in doubt as to how the Bible says one should treat their own children. Someone “highly doubts God would condone murdering a 19 month old baby for not saying AMEN” and thinks that I should reread the Bible, praying before and after every single passage. Someone else complains about verses being taken “out of context” and others just say that they don’t “live by Old Testament ways,” despite Jesus’ firm command to the contrary.
One of the many cultural myths with which I would like to do away is the notion that the Bible is somehow a sturdy moral foundation for our lives, particularly where families are concerned. To that end, I have compiled ten of the meatiest verses from both Hebrew and Christian Testament on the treatment of child and family. Of course, as these are the rules of an extinct ancient theocracy and not a modern society, they are appropriately barbaric. They are so over-the-top crazy that no sane person should assent to them, and I sincerely doubt any “Biblical literalists” are so evil as to obey them, if they are even aware of them:
10. God deems it good to punish Babylon by smashing her infant children to bits on the street, so right off the rod we know that the slaughter of children cannot be a priori an evil thing in Biblical morality. (Isaiah 13:16)
9. Jesus himself will cause your family and your household to be torn apart, so now we also know that it can’t be a priori an evil thing to ruin families in Biblical morality. (Luke 21:16)
8. The sexual enslavement of thousands of children (32,000, to be exact) is OK, as long as God has already told you to murder their families, so we also know that neither genocide or the sexual torture of children is a priori an evil deed in Biblical morality. (Numbers 31:17-18)
7. If you mock or disobey your parents, the birds-of-prey will devour your eyes right out of your head, so the disfigurement of your own children also cannot be a sin. (Proverbs 30:17)
6. If a ruthless dictator doesn’t manumit his slaves at the request of a single random soothsayer, the morally good response is to murder the children of everyone in the nation, even if they have never even heard of Moses or his god, so for the Bible moralist it is morally good to punish people for deeds in which they took no part. (Exodus 12:29)
5. A superficial (read: literal) reading of the story of the binding of Isaac makes it clear that your moral duty to obey a pernicious command from above far outweighs any love you might have for your own offspring. In Bible ethics, then, standing up for your own bloodline is not a priori a morally good action. (Genesis 22:2-13)
4. If children make fun of your bald head, the appropriate response is to have them massacred by bears. This way, we know that in Biblical morality, punishments need no proportion to the crimes. (2nd Kings 2:23)
3. If you don’t hate your mom, your dad, your siblings, your children, and yourself, Jesus is wrong for you. So in Biblical morality, a cohesive family unit is a moral aberration. (Luke 14:26)
2. If a child is disobedient and doesn’t listen to his parents, have the entire town get together and execute him The Lottery-style. There is no exception made here for “19 month old babies who don’t say AMEN.” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
1. And of course the most famous father-son relationship in the Bible is God’s own: God loves us so much that he would torture and murder his own son to save us from God’s own wrath.
So, we have learned (1) that the murder, torture, rape, disfigurement, and ritual execution of children is morally permissible in certain cases, (2) the very existence of a loving family structure is morally impermissible, and (3) and annihilation of entire cultures is OK so long as the young children are spared to fulfill the victors’ sexual lust. All this is the case, unless either God is not good, or God is not the author of the Bible.
We are very fortunate indeed, then, that virtually all so-called “Biblical literalists” are either unaware of or too morally good to follow the commands to slaughter and torture written about in the Bible. While I have a great deal to say on this question, particular on the pertinence of these arguments to the Euthyphro Dilemma, I feel the point has been made so I will let it rest.