|“Many times... slaves were not treated as less than human (the Bible supports their humanity). Slaves are given just as much importance as people”
Well I can say that I have enjoyed these emails with you, Bob. I even got you a new headline after those insane threats from Jay or whatever. Not to mention I got some free publicity (not that I wanted any)! I will give you a response to the Biblical quotes you linked to me, and then I’ll be out of your horns—I mean hair! J
Oh wait! I have a few things to say first. Just how are we any different from other animals? I mean we’re just a genus and species like every other organism. My point in my last email about morals was that I don’t understand what you believe to be the distinguishing factor between Homo sapiens and other animals. What are your reasons to have morals if we, as humans, aren’t held to a higher standard by a Creator? If making morals is truly up to us, then they must be merely relative. This leaves them without any true value. Here’s an example. I don’t want to turn this into a debate over the morality of abortion, but it is the perfect example. If my morals are based in the Bible, life is sacred. Innocent life shouldn’t be taken. This leaves no doubt that ending a child’s life before it leaves the womb (although the child is still highly developed) is immoral. If the Bible is eliminated and morals are based solely on human ideas, then that scenario can go two completely opposite directions. If society values the lives of those who can’t speak up for themselves, then abortion will be immoral. On the other hand, if personal convenience is placed above the value of a helpless child (like in today’s society), abortion will be moral. I guess I just can’t see how leaving morals up to us will ever suffice. If what you say is true, then I don’t think any consensus could ever be reached on morality; therefore, any attempt at keeping morals would be to a set of personal morals which could vary from individual to individual. They become pointless.
You also mentioned that its “our job” to speak up against an injustice. Why is that our job? What reason does any human have for figuring out what is right or wrong. How is any right or wrong even established? And why is it our responsibility to figure these things out? What gives us the responsibility? I genuinely want to know where you think it comes from. I’m throwing off all sarcasm here and am just curious. You believe we are just biological accidents that happened to exist because all matter that makes up the universe appeared into existence (from nothing) as a dense pinprick that one day happened to explode into an ever expanding limitless universe, of which a tiny rock exhibited the perfect circumstances for this crazy thing called life to burst forth from all the individual molecules and be sustained by molecules that have unique intermolecular properties (hydrogen bonding—very strong dipole-dipole attraction) allowing them to remain in liquid form at a large enough range of temperatures to be useful? If all this happened by chance, what gives you the impression that we have any responsibility or “job” to do anything at all? If you’re right and we do have a natural manifesto to determine right from wrong and stand up against “injustice,” then I have something to say:
I, for one, see the injustice in the fact that you belittle and make light of people that so many hold sacred. The dress-up websites seem cruel and unwarranted. You see them as perfectly fine and even humorous. How do we decide who’s morals are correct? What good does speaking out against incorrect morals accomplish? What is good even? Is it stuff that makes us feel good because I’m sure bank robber feel great when they are robbing a bank and getting thousands of dollars? I just don’t see an explanation for any of those intangible abstracts. Did goodness, right, wrong, and morality come out of the big bang or evolution as well?
Back to my original topic: The book of Leviticus in the Old Testament is primarily a book of laws to govern the Hebrew people in their wanderings through the wilderness after their deliverance from Egypt. Although you won’t find any outright disdain for the practice of slavery in the Bible, you do see a common theme of fair treatment being required of masters to slaves. You’ll also notice that, outside of God’s dealings with the nation of Israel, very little interest is shown by God in politics of any kind. Most notably, when Jesus is asked about paying taxes to the Roman government by one of His disciples, Jesus is very clear that there is a separation between the institutions of man and the institution of God. He goes further throughout His time on Earth to quench the beliefs that He would release the Jewish people from Roman rule. Jesus made no mistake of presenting the “Kingdom of God” that is coming as the reality of importance over the kingdom of man. In the book of Leviticus that you quoted, God is dealing within the bounds of society at the time except for the spiritual and moral things. When you think about slavery today, you picture an African-American being whipped and beaten and starved. This obviously doesn’t adhere to the Bible’s provisions for slavery and was rightfully abolished. Many times in the past, however, slaves were not treated as less than human (the Bible supports their humanity). Slaves are given just as much importance as people, and masters are chastised for being harsh or mistreating them. They are basically in a job that they can’t quit from which meets their needs. Another thing to realize, as well, is that modern day people who get impossibly in debt can declare bankruptcy and move on or depend on the government to fulfill basic needs (in most cases). In ancient times, when a person ran out of money or assets, he couldn’t eat, which would lead to his death. Selling oneself into slavery would ensure meals and support in exchange for labor. Living life in servitude is still living. God just provided a way to make the best out of a necessity brought about by sin and human flaw. We’re blessed today to live in a time where slavery is not a necessity at all.
With all that said, where does a person who only believes in evidence and reason even obtain the notion that slavery is wrong? At least the Bible specifies that a person who is a slave is still a person worthy of fair treatment. Evidence and reason show that a job gets done when many people work on it and getting those people for free is good. Why then would a strictly reasonable animal (For that is all we are, right?) that exists by chance and believes by evidence assume any other reality than slavery? Where does the value of life and freedom even come from if our existence is by chance and pointless?
Thanks for keeping my mind going!
Standing firm in Christ,
PS. I was wondering if Bob Smith is really your name. I understand if it isn’t and you don’t want to tell me, but what is your real name if normal Bob Smith is an alias?
Wynn Traylor Harvey II
I'm beginning to understand that an inability to comprehend the importance of free speech & freedom in general is where the morality issue becomes a point of confusion for believers. A believer in a god or gods has already had the concept of "limited freedoms" planted into their mind. It's an essential handicap that must be instilled in those who worship. Whereas outside that box of god-worship we're let to understand it is us who're responsible. We're in charge because we're the only living beings who can take charge. Animals aren't in the position to develop cures for diseases, build a roof, think up ways to feed the starving, or write schoolbooks. It's our responsibility, the cost for being the most advanced thinking species here on earth. What we say goes, as far as living organisms saying things, when it comes to being in charge of whatever.
As for the gods we invent, though we may have the urge to put all this on them so we can bow out and play a more passive role, it's really just a lazy dodging of responsibilities. We can weave many different reasons to paint this copout as a good thing, "Being humble, we're scum, lying, cheating bastards, guilty & corrupt, deserving of eternal hell," but it's really just a copout.
The first thing one has to do to begin overcoming this is understand that as soon as people began to reason and know the difference, that's when morality came into existence. Before that it did not exist. There was no such thing as morality before there was life. And as life evolved so did morality. A lion must kill a gazelle to feed its cubs. If it does not its cubs will starve to death. Which is more moral? In a savage world morality is a much different beast. However, there's a thing called "civilization." This is something to strive for, because as we've discovered it is possible for people to live happier, healthier, more productive lives when offered a civilized society where people are treated fairly. This is where The Golden Rule comes in. Your god did not invent The Golden Rule. The bible was not the first or only place where The Golden Rule has been written. The Golden Rule is basically, "Do to others as you would have done to you." Thus, the starting point of morality in a nutshell.
Would you want someone to punch you in the face? No? And do most people agree on that? Cool. Morals are being formed. How about robbing each other? Would you want people to steal your belongings? No? More morals being formed. In fact, it's not even the act of agreeing on these things that establishes morals. The morality is innate and often pretty easy to decipher if you just point the finger at how you'd want to be treated.
But yes, it does indeed get complicated, and there can never be 100% agreement with everybody, but we're not given the luxury of just giving up at that point, picking out a book from history and going with that version. It's not black and white. It's massive amounts of grey area that we alone have to figure out and do the best we can. And there will be times when the right answer isn't obvious. Again, it'd be fantastic to get ourselves off the hook and leave it up to some book we declared "God's Word," but then you find yourself making ugly, illogical excuses for slavery. And that's really fucked up.
One of the reasons I emphasized the importance of acknowledging injustices out loud is because I knew you were going to do the exact opposite in regards to slavery. And you were doing it on account of the god you worship. It's a perfect example of god having nothing to do with helping us in our quest for morals, but actually sabotaging us. I am stunned by your explanation of why slavery isn't amoral, and I blame the misinformation you were fed that it's not your responsibility. I mean, it's an easy puzzle for anyone outside that pledge to the bible to figure out. Slavery is wrong. People shouldn't be able to own other people even if they're poor, weaker, different religions, whatever. However, give the decision to someone who's opted out of the responsibility and you've got the first steps set to establish slavery right back into reality. This is precisely what you've done here, and you need to be made aware of it. An entire society believing what you just stated is a fast paced strut towards bringing slavery back into the books. This is exactly how different forms of oppression occur in nations around the world and throughout history.
This is one of MANY reasons free speech is so important, and my dressup Jesus game morally sound. It's mocking a destructive belief. A belief that if left uncriticized would not hesitate to limit freedoms once again. Singling out groups it's okay to oppress because "God" okayed it.
Mocking destructive beliefs is one glorious, effective way towards destroying them. It's been said that mockery is partially owed for pushing the KKK out to the fringes of society. And I know for myself it was mockery that changed my beliefs as well. You, Wynn, could probably even think of a moment in your own life when mockery of some stupid thing you thought or did helped change you for the better. It's an effective, non violent defense against destructive belief systems. And standing up to poisonous belief systems is essential to maintaining civilization.
I'm curious. Did you find yourself cringing at the notion of having to defend slavery? I mean, saying slaves weren't treated as less than human while your god vividly describes how severely one is permitted to beat their slave. (Exo 21:20) Here the slave owner is allowed by the Word Of God to thrash their slave so hard he or she cannot get back up for a day or two. Do you consider this "slaves not being treated as less than human?" Really? Do you think me mocking your stance on this is a strike for or against morality? How about this. What if I could show you scripture that required you to somehow defend killing children? (Lev. 20:9, Deut. 21:19-21, Mark 7:10 & Matt. 15:4). Do you think mockery of that would be crossing a line because it hurt your feelings?
The notion of all these things are declared immoral by simple implement of The Golden Rule. If it were your children, should they be stoned to death for cursing you? Should you be put into a job you cannot quit where you're beaten with a rod until you cannot stand up? If your daughter is raped should she be forced to marry her rapist? According to your god the answer is yes to all three. You can argue your moral guidebook until your blue in the face, but the more you do the more you'll only convince me it was only written by uncivilized men.
Yes, Normal Bob is just an alias. It's all pretty much common knowledge since the Times article.