Testaments Old & New


Except there is no hell. That's the big fairy tale. It's used to scare. But we don't scare. So the bullies and their fake hell can suck it.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of this hypocrisy is the idea that the bible is the unadultrated and perfect word of god...well except for that first half.

I guess god was just coming into his own then, experimenting with a lot of weird politics before settling in. Philosophical impossiblities be damned.

Looks like this Old v. New thing is going to be this month's "monogamish" debate.

Keep raising hell Dan.
"Even believers who do not turn away from their sins (like your vile sin of disgusting, unnatural sodomy, wherein you live like a filthy dog), will go to Hell 1000 years, before they enjoy eternity with God. But for unbelievers (like yourself), you will pay for your sins in Hell 1000 years, and then depart into your eternal destination, the lake of fire—but before this, you will likely also begin to reap and feel the effects of your wickedness even in this life. "

Is there a table somewhere that converts each sin into numbers of hell-years that I'm unaware of? And what's the difference between "Hell" and the "lake of fire". Is there lakefront property in Hell?
Oh, BTW, Jesus was a Jew so he only believed in the old testament. So you believe something Jesus had no belief in. Wonder what he would have said about that???
If you’re going to hell, if all of us sinners are going to hell, and we are all okay with that, why is this guy (email#1) so angry? Does he have to serve the same hell-sentence as we do (like when my kids fight over a toy they all lose the toy)? Is he guilty by association? If the punishment for my sin is that we all have to go to time-out in the lake (??) of fire, then sure, I can see his anger. But according to him, he gets to go to heaven and enjoy his virgins or whatever while the rest of us burn or whatever.

So why is he so upset? Seems like he’d rather we all are left out of the fun of heaven – more goodies for him, right? He’ll get the merry-go-round all to himself.
Yikes, I don't envy you right now. These are going to be some deep shit filled weeks. Good luck.
That first letter just reeks of mental illness. Not for the subject matter, so much, just the tone and certain textual patterns that you can't help but recognize after you've encountered several Timecubes' worth of crazy on the internets.

Also, I cannot help but hear "Peggy's" letter in Peggy Hill's voice, which makes it a hundred times better.
You've got them in a bind now, and they're scrambling to contort their theology to refute your point.

In doing so you've pointed out the inherent instability of organized Christianity: every believer, EVERY believer, picks and chooses what they believe, what they follow, and what influences their behavior, from a large menu of possible configurations in the Bible. Smart Christians, like Kim in Portland or John Shore, understand this, accept it and move on with their lives. Others, like your detractors, struggle with it at every turn.
Paul was the worst thing to happen to Jesus. I've never understood why Christians miss the boat on the whole golden rule part, and Jesus coming to replace law and rules with love and compassion, only to go nearly full circle with Paul. Pro tip, Christians: listen to Jesus, not the ancient Jewish fairy tales at the start of the book or the silly suggestions of a micromanagerial douchebag after Jesus left.
C'mon, Dan. If we can't count on a 4000-year-old desert nomad's account of his conversation with his imaginary friend as the ultimate moral authority, what can we count on?
I love how telling a person that they will suffer agonizing torture for all eternity, and that this is proof that there is a just and loving God, is just a reasonable expression of sincere religious beliefs, but responding to that same person by telling them that their beliefs are a mean-spirited and transparently manipulative fairy-tale is "persecution."

"You're interfering with my right to threaten and intimidate you into doing what I say!"
@4 Great point as well, Vince! Jesus invoked the Law (read: the Old Testament) early and often in the four gospels of the New Testament. He obviously respected the Law, followed the Law, and knew it front to back. These arguments are spurious from the theological perspective.
The tweet is blank. . .
@5 - My guess: he doesn't truly believe and he's jealous of all the fun everyone else is having. He's not too content in his life of self-denial. It's really hard to hold a belief that's so bizarre and intangible in relation to the modern world and he's pissed that so few others are as self-flagellating as himself.

Combine that with the possibility that he doesn't believe it 100%--he's regularly having troublesome doubts--and you have the formula for some serious anger issues.
Jesus needs to recruit better debaters.
Slavery in the Roman Empire varied widely in awfulness. Slaves who worked the mines had a genuinely awful existence. At the other end, the household slaves who had what we'd call white collar jobs had it "pretty good" - they could own property, were well treated and well fed, were in demand, and emancipation was often built into their arrangement - I suspect this is what Josh is referring to when he suggests that Paul is only talking about the slaves who were attending the ancient equivalent of ITT.

But make no mistake, these people were slaves. Eventual liberty is not the same as liberty. It's still not acceptable to our modern eyes. And that is, after all, the point: our modern ideas of how to live and live well don't jive with this book of fables and laws written by a bunch of desert nomads 4000 years ago, and the addenda tacked on by a bunch of schismatics 2000 years ago. Saying that Paul's choice to write about a particular sliver of slavery means he would've agreed with us about slavery is missing the point: even if you're right about the scope of his advice (and I don't know if you are or not), that means that he chose only to comment on the least awful form of slavery around, while remaining chillingly silent on all the other heinous forms around. Paul was a Roman. Romans did some amazing things, but I wouldn't want them running our country, and I wouldn't want their ideas about slavery or sexuality or social standing or military force determining policy.
For your detractors arguing this New Testament vs. Old Testament nonsense as if it's some get out of jail free card, cite Matthew 5:18-19:

Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or tittle shall nowise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.

The "law" is the law of Moses, i.e., the Old Testament. Choke on that, haters.
Matthew 5:17 ""Don't think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill."

But both the old and new book are bullshit, so it doesn't really matter.
@13, it shows on the desktop version of the site, just not the mobile. Jesus must not like us reading Slog mobile.
"...the type of slavery which is mainly dealt with by the apostle Paul is more of an indentured servitude which may be voluntary or involuntary and is more akin to a work apprenticeship in most cases."

Josh is just plain full of shit here. In the Roman world, slaves were the spoils of war. The legions would crush resistance, kill every adult male and haul all the women and children back to Rome as human chattel. They had no rights and could be bought, sold, raped or even killed at will. This idea that ancient slavery was more gentile than the 18th century planter variety is bullshit.
Jesus ate pie for your sins.

Or something like that.
Suddenly I can see the tweet on the mobile version! Thankyoubabyjesus!
I love how the fundies imagine that we haven't read the Book. We have, we do, we can see things in it that you don't.

But what I want to know is where is the Slog story on this editorial from this weekend's NYT?

Dan, you are trying to make sense of nonsense.

The Bible was written (and rewritten) by a cast of thousands and someone thinks it will make sense? I think Cecil B. DeMille's version of the Bible makes as much sense (and it did have a cast of thousands).

"...don't wear white after Labor Day.." Very funny.
Gotta love the "well slavery was better back then" argument.

As if it is just fine and moral to own another person as long as you don't totally starve or kill them.

If you are trying to justify slavery to protect your religion, you have come way off base. Come back to the light of reason my friends.
"Mock on, pervert."

Indeed, pervert Dan, mock on. Keep on keeping on! You're right, they know it. End of story.
The first email is a real gem. "God is not mocked!"

"Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah!"

Dear Dan, please keep fighting the ignoramuses, you are doing a stellar job.
It must take so much energy to believe in all of this crap and try to force it upon others.

Ya know, just let me burn in Hell. It's not your problem.
Good on you, Dan, for taking the time for this. I would just tell them all to fuck right off and to shove their holy book up their assy hole.
18, But you're selectively leaving off the rest of the verse.

The Fulfillment of the Law

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven

It says you must still practice OT law.

Dan, one thing you don't cite, but I think is also important to bring up is that there are not even any anti-homosexual verses in the bible that are definitely attributed to Paul. The key verses that are usually cited depend on a very rare Greek word transliterated roughly as Arsenokoitai. The exact meaning of this word is unknown, but it is a compound word that literally means 'man-couch'. Only recent translations of the bible translate it as homosexual, and in fact, earlier translations of the bible translate it as masturbator. Scholarly research into this word, however, seems to indicate it to mean some kind of sexual commerce is attached to this word, thus it may have actually meant 'those who pimp male prostitutes'. Other research indicates that it might have referred to sacred shrine prostitution as was practiced in the worship of the goddess Asheroth. The greeks, of course, were well aware of male homosexuality and had many more common words to describe it. Had Paul been preaching against this, he likely would have used erastes, eromenos, or paiderasste which are much more common words than arsenokoitai, which appears only 77 times in all known ancient greek manuscripts. Some excellent online articles can be found at http://www.religioustolerance.org/homars… and http://www.gaychristian101.com/Arsenokoi… but the long and short of it is that unless a Christian who tells you Paul condemned homosexuality is also an ancient Greek scholar, he's full of shit.
... the type of slavery which is mainly dealt with by the apostle Paul is more of an indentured servitude which may be voluntary or involuntary and is more akin to a work apprenticeship in most cases.
Hmmm. I guess that makes your Unpaid Interns a local modern-day equivalent???

::wanders off snickering at Josh::
It's still just insane to me that it's 2012 and we're arguing profusely about things like gay / women rights. So much so that we've become a nation that is ignoring the things that are really disrupting a country that has incredible potential. It's also unfortunate that a mind like Dan Savage's has to be used to defend every action he takes when he could be using his time / energy into doing more good than what he's already been able to accomplish. Don't burn yourself out Dan - your community needs you. If anything, we should all take a stand over the sheer size and power the government has over things as personal as body / sexuality freedoms. I can't walk into someones house, grab their bible and throw it away in the trash just because I don't believe in it. Why something like the government think it can come into the homes of hundreds of millions of Americans, grab their vaginas - and throw them away just the same is insane. They don't belong in our women's vaginas, or to be telling who can love whom - it's 2012 for crying out loud.
this is probably why we should stop trying to justify actions based on the bible. it has good stuff and bad stuff in it, true....but how about we all just use our brains. i think we all know how to be a nice person without a book.
"It means Jesus loves homosexuals as well as homosapiens."

Heavens to betsy!
Apparently homosexuals are not homosapiens?
I'm listening once again to The Good Book by Tim Minchin. Lovely backdrop to all this.

@35 I struggled with that line. WTF?
The wish to believe that the Bible does not endorse slavery or that Christians did not use the Bible to justify slavery may always result in a great expendersture of both emotional and intellectual energy. The other thread is full of such individuals. The Internet makes it possible to probe the topic, but that will not stop the apologetics. Self-delusion to maintain their beliefs is better than honestly accepting the truth. It is a shame.

"Several prominent early church fathers advocated slavery, either directly or indirectly. Augustine of Hippo, who renounced his former Manicheanism, argued that slavery was part of the mechanism to preserve the natural order of things. Augustine Of Hippo, City of God"

"John Chrysostom, while he described slavery as the fruit of covetousness, of extravagance, of insatiable greediness in his Epist. ad Ephes,also argued that slaves should be resigned to their fate, as by obeying his master he is obeying God."

""St Thomas Aquinas in mid-thirteenth century accepted the new Aristotelian view of slavery as well as the titles of slave ownership derived from Roman civil law, and attempted - without complete success - to reconcile them wit Christian patristic tradition. He takes the patristic theme... that slavery exists is a consequence of original sin and says that it exists according to the "second intention" of nature; it would not have existed in the state of original innocence according to the "first intention" of nature; in this way he can explain the Aristotelian teaching that some people are slaves "by nature" like inanimate instruments, because of their personal sins; for since the slave cannot work for his own benefit slavery is necessarily a punishment. He accepts the symbiotic master-slave relationship as being mutually beneficial. There should be no punishment without some crime, so slavery as a penalty is a matter of positive law. St Thomas' explanation continued to be expounded at least until the end of the 18th century"

"[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God...it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation...it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts" - Jefferson Davis, President, Confederate States of America

"Every hope of the existence of church and state, and of civilization itself, hangs upon our arduous effort to defeat the doctrine of Negro suffrage" - Robert Dabney, a prominent 19th century Southern Presbyterian pastor

"... the right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example" - Richard Furman, President, South Carolina Baptist Convention

All quotes found by using Google. You can start with Wikipedia and follow links.

I do recognize that during the first century that believed that a slave who converted to Christianity then he could buy his freedom from his Christian master. But Christian masters were not obligated to allow their slaves to buy their freedom. That is what many believed was the outcome that is implied in Philemon. But, that does not eliminate the truth that Christians no longer had slaves. History reports that churches participated in the slave trade. Early church fathers argued in favor of it. Or that popes kept them. It did not stop captured Muslims from being enslaved; in the 12th century, and their being forced to carry out the grand reconstruction of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. History holds the truth. The Bible was used as justification for the enslavement of humans. It is silly to say it was not and it is impossible to say if it ever was intended to. Still, some will argue against history. That is a shame in my opinion.

Sorry for the longwindedness.
@35 Beat me by seconds! Great minds think alike and all that!
Where you're from, Dan, pissing on the third rail results in electrocution. XD

Thank FSM words don't conduct electricity, and keep up the good work. I don't know how you find the energy, but I'm happy you do.
Some NT stuff that modern Christians ignore.

1 Peter 3
3 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

1 Timothy 2
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35
34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

Luke 12:33
33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

That's just a few more examples of NT verses that Christians like to pretend don't exist.
One thing that bugs me is: why is hell(or heaven for that matter) NEVER mentioned in the old testament? Does that even make sense? Or did hell just get invented after the Roman Catholic Church got their greedy little hands on it and decided to scare the shit out of people??
Fight Dan fight!

Great stuff.

OT: 400 years BCE there was a guy running around with a better golden rule:
"Do not do unto others as you would not have them do into you."

That one solves a few problems created by the later version (eliminating all the non-consensual stuff that could come from it.)
Just post Matthew 5:18-20, show everyone that gentle Jesus, meek and mild, endorsed the Old Testament in it's entirety. Either the book is the word of God or it's not.

But, that does not eliminate the truth that Christians had slaves...
Also, you definitely do not get to trumpet Biblical innerancy and then claim that the Old Testament "doesn't count." Either the Bible is a work of fiction, or it all counts, you guys. You don't get to pick which parts are the Word of Yahjuselawayayawooha, and which are just some boring old words you kinda skimmed over in Sunday School once.
@41 That last one is one the whole Republican party, right-wing religious nutjobs included, forget completely. Fucking heartless hypocrites.
Ugh, sorry about the typos, wordfarts. Fixing now.
Here's my idea:

How about we offer a $5000 scholarship to any kids at Sutter Union High School in Sutter, California, where these pansy-assed walk-out students came from, who want to start a GSA at their school.

The school is obviously run by the extreme right, as the Journalism teacher is doing interviews about the offense he took to his religion being challenged with naughty words to FOX NEWS!!! The school also supports a group called YOUTH ALIVE which "is a Christian club on campus that provides a place during school hours where Christian teens may find fellowship and support with other Christian teens."

There is no GSA at the school.

Sutter, CA has a population of nearly 3000 (the same number as kids at the lecture Dan gave) and the 2010 Census shows that 7 same-sex married couples or partnerships exist in Sutter.

There have got to be some LGBT kids in that school (the only high school in the district) that are really fucking alone.

Every city rep, state rep and congress-person in the district is a Republican.

How about we piss them off and fund the beginning of a GSA at their school?
In ancient Rome, the slave owner could have sex with his slaves when he wanted to.

Not that that was a BAD thing by todays standards because all Romans were exquisite lovers and when the slaves were freed they would often go back to their own people and tell them how great it was to be a slave in Rome with such sexually adventurous masters.

What is it with this "slavery was different back then" bullshit?
Slavery is slavery.
The Bible even talks about beating your slave so bad that he loses an eye and what you have to do to make it up to God at that point.

Hence the origin of the "it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye" saying.

Exodus 21:26
Dan, I wonder why you even bother to respond to these people. They are largely unteachable, incapable of critical thinking, unable, I think, to even think for themselves. The hypocrisy they demonstrate with their bible should clue you in that their position has little or nothing to do with their religion or their god; it's about their own fear and self-loathing. It just seems all that energy you spend dueling with them might be better spent.

"The highest quality that a human being can reach is to be independent of the good opinion of others." Abraham Maslow
I'm with #52, here. Shooting fish in a barrel has got to get pretty boring after a while.
Why are so many Christian so unaware of what's written in the book they're so adamant about claiming to follow? They already expect non-believers to argue using their rules, but what's the point when they don't understand their own belief system?
@42 hell came along later. And our modern conception of hell doesn't even exist in the bible, Dante created that shit. The modern conception of hell is just a product of pop culture over the years, just like the "old west".
"My 5% Christianity is better than your 5% Christianity".

Go, Dan, go.
"The best cure for Christianity is reading the Bible." - Mark Twain

"Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand." - Mark Twain
Dan--you've failed us!

In citing people who use the "slavery was good for the slaves" argument, you left out Michelle Bachmann!
It's almost Orwellian the way that Christians are trying to redefine the idea of slavery to suggest that Biblical slavery really wasn't bad, or re-write history to suggest that Bible believing Christians of the old south didn't use the Bible as justification to keep other human beings a property.

It seems that most Christians don't even read the Bible. But what is even worse is that those who do seem to only do so under supervision. They do it in Bible study groups and classes, or with their Bible guides in their other hand, all telling them how they are supposed to interpret the Bible. They don't just read the Bible and simply see what it says.

I don't know if Jesus actually existed, but what I do know is that the Jesus depicted in the Bible would be disgusted with much of what passes for Christianity today. The lack of compassion, the lack of care for the poor and the homeless, the greed, the prosperity theology... it all goes directly against what the Bible says he preached.

Jesus walked barefoot feeding the hungry and healing the sick. He had nothing but the clothes on his back. The Pope lives in a palace, wears Prada shoes, and eats off gold dinnerware.

And I am supposed to trust him and the rest of the money grubbing, self serving Christian preachers as guides to what Jesus wants? I don't need them to know. I can read, and I can see they have it all wrong.
After growing up in an Episcopalian family, going to church and being preached to by a lesbian reverend every Sunday, and being confirmed by a black, lesbian bishop (also one of the other bishops was a gay man), I have 0 patience for any Christian who uses Christianity to justify bigotry, because it's nothing less than complete and utter horseshit. I don't practice anymore and I'm basically an atheist at this point, but I still remember being taught that "love thy neighbor" and "forgive others their trespasses" are the most important lessons I could ever learn.

Christians who don't hold those two things above all else, are not Christians. Period.
At the end of the day, support for gay rights in the United States is growing rapidly. These idiots fighting against it are getting louder and louder to compensate for the ever decreasing number of voices on their side.

I'm guessing all the anger comes from being constantly reminded of how silly and infantile their beliefs are. A big lake of fire where the sky man and his flying helpers send bad people??? I'm about as worried about that as I am worried about running into Santa flying a plane on Christmas Eve.
You wrote: Oh, BTW, Jesus was a Jew so he only believed in the old testament. So you believe something Jesus had no belief in. Wonder what he would have said about that???

The corrolary is that, if Jesus belived in the Old Testament only, and you don't believe in it, how can you justify a belief in Jesus?
This means I'm technically famous now, right?

--Don Gwinn
My fundie brother has used "it was Christians who spoke out against slavery" defence as well, to which I reply, "luckily there are some who are speaking out for LGBT now."

Although I do not think Jesus rose from the dead to cleanse us of our sins (or that that needs doing), I think he was a wise man with a lot of good things to say. I have always personally looked to the story of the people reaping and eating in the field on the sabbath. The church elders, who are trying to trap Jesus, ask, "Aren't thee people wrong to eat on the sabbath?" Jesus replies, "I tell you that there is something here that is greater than the temple. The Scripture says, 'I don't want animal sacrifices; I want you to show kindness to people.' You don't really know what those words mean. If you understood those words, then you would not judge those people that have done nothing wrong." I have always taken this to mean: God isn't a dick, people. Don't use the "laws" of the bible to hurt innocent people. But, then again, that's just what I think.
@30 Yes, I know. I agree with you ;)
@55: Ooh! I like it, but I think I prefer to think about it as a Renaissance Faire! Satan is played by a balding, doughy 47-year old (who was probably really hot when he started playing the role 20 years ago). The demons are all high-school kids on summer break who like to sneak behind the cardboard cutout flames for a quick smoke and some grabass with Shelly, the damned-soul-on-a-stick girl.
"You will soon see Who has the last laugh."

Well, obviously it's not going to be Keith or John. I don't know, though, it's kind of hard to say if Roger or Pete is more likely to die next. Then again, do Kenny Jones or John "Rabbit" Bundrick count?
@52, @53 – Dan needs to keep this discussion going. He is responding to religious dogma with logic and reason. Will he convert the religious fanatics into believing that homosexuality can be reconciled with biblical narratives? No. He (we) do not need to. He merely needs to sway enough of the moderates, who also consider themselves Christians, that the proscription against homosexuality is akin to those against other "sins" that we all practice. If you win the moderates over, you politically neuter the fundamentalists.

To give a personal account - I had always been relatively accepting of GLBT issues, but had a personal opposition to gay marriage, gay adoption, etc. I started reading Savage for the sex advice and stayed for the political discussions, including those that opened my eyes to why gay marriage is a civil right. I also read the underlying studies that showed children of LGBT relationships fare just as well as two parent households. Once I realized my views were based on bigotry and not defendable on science or otherwise, I changed (or "evolved" as the President says).

I have killed too many hours reading all the comments - here, the Washington Post, and some conservative Blogs. Leaving aside the rhetoric of whether Dan was too harsh with the journalist students, I have yet to see a single convincing comment refuting his central assertion: even assuming the bible is the word of God, it is selectively enforced against gay people. Dan is forcing people to confront the hypocrisy of their religious beliefs

Keep the dialogue going Dan.
"Anyone who pretends to understand something they can't possibly know is evil"

(or something like that)

Savage Comics #1, 1993

true then, true now
there is no arguing, unfortunately, with fundamentalists. they have already decided to cover their ears and sing "la la la" regarding the many many many contradictions in the bible. this isn't about logic. there is no logic to fundamentalism. they believe that the bible is inerrant and True and if there are contradictions, well, god understands, even if they don't. so it doesn't matter. and there you have it. you can argue logic with them til the cows come home, and it will not make one bit of difference as long as they are committed to reading the bible through a fundamentalist lens.

some of us christians view the bible very differently. we see it as a sacred text full of wisdom, that tells a Truth that is bigger than facts. it doesn't matter if the bible is factually true, or if it always makes sense, or even if it gets things -- Big Things -- wrong. of course it does. it is the wisdom of god filtered through the myths and tales and poetry and history of very fallible human beings. it holds more, not less, wisdom for being all that, in my mind.

and then, some of us christians actually believe that god did not stop speaking to and through us once the bible got canonized. in my denomination (the united church of christ), we say "never put a period where god has put a comma; god is still speaking."

and finally, i once went to the bar mitzvah of a very wise young man who was a naturalist and outdoorsman (and who had hiked a big chuck of the AT with my wife, his middle school teacher) who got the noah story for his torah portion. and in his talk, he said that the only way he could figure out how god could kill so much of the natural world in the flood was by assuming that god just got it wrong. god, he said, was still learning how to be god. this kid was wise, and his congregation applauded him for his wisdom. there are people of faith who are not fundamentalists, but those who are? really kinda pointless, i fear, to argue with them.
You know, these aren't the major points but I'm sure the previous 70 comments hit those, so:

In the first letter, Revelations (and the rest of the Bible) says nothing of the sort. The various 1000 year sentences are like some personal revelation stuff or something.

In the last letter, while it is true that Roman slavery was different from American slavery (lacking the racial aspect, slaves of higher status could save up enough to buy their freedom and then promptly became slave owners themselves, etc: basically, anyone with sufficient luck could wind up either master or slave) it was nothing like indentured servitude. Which had its abuses, but did actually have a set limit of 7 years at which point you went free. Which was a contract with the employer providing certain things. Which did not include the right to beat the servant to death, rape them, et cetera. Being a slave completely sucked and deprived you of all legal rights to diddly squat, in 1000 BC or 42 AD or 1800 AD. Pretending those were all happy family slaves who loved their masters and would have wept to leave them is a weird happy gloss on an eternally dark practice.
@67: I have always thought the miracle of the loaves and fishes is a stunningly powerful story if read as one of a single child's generosity causing everyone else to share what they have, thereby discovering that united they have enough for all and more besides. Jesus waving his hands and performing that expansion spell Hermione used to do on sandwiches is much less impressive.
Is there gonna be a rope swing at the eternal lake of fire? Maybe I can finally learn to do a flip!
"The lesson here? The Bible is a sprawling and contradictory text that got some stuff wrong—some very big stuff ..."
And if that doesn't convince you the bible is man-made I don't know what will ...

If I could rationalize and contort plain statements as apologists do I'd never have to worry about failing an exam again ... You can essentially argue both sides of almost any issue if you use the bible as your source.
"The lesson here? The Bible is a sprawling and contradictory text that got some stuff wrong—some very big stuff ..."
And if that doesn't convince you the bible is man-made I don't know what will ...

If I could rationalize and contort plain statements as apologists do I'd never have to worry about failing an exam again ... You can essentially argue both sides of almost any issue if you use the bible as your source.
@10 -- Love it!
@42: We need a Jew, or someone conversant with Judaism 201. But basically, no, the old testament, and Judaism, do not have hell. (Funny line on The Good Wife this week. Also, all Jews believe in God, every one of them, if it will end Eli's interview with Jackie earlier.)
@9 Excellent advice, and a pretty good description of the Quaker meeting I ended up joining.

If one believes in that love and compassion, it's hard not to also believe in equal rights. We do. We just finished our advance registration for this year's Pride parade. We've marched in every single one, starting in 1970.

@59 Amen. I couldn't possibly agree more.
Following off 59, I like The Good Book by David Plotz. A cultural but not religious Jew stumbles across the story of Dina while flipping through the Bible (at a Bat Mitzvah, natch), a story years of childhood religious education skipped over. Curiosity engaged, he reads the whole thing (Old Testament, and I wish I knew a similar book for the New). It pulls out all the stuff that gets left out or skipped over. (The begats! Sometimes interesting!) When the Jews tell God they want a king, and God points to someone who is very tall, and the people are like "Ooooh, he IS very tall! That's an important quality in a leader," it is way too close to modern presidential elections.
I can't believe how much time people have to waste researching the bible to combat Christian apologetics that haven't even read/researched the damn thing.

Dan, no better use of your time? Trolls, do not feed them.
Actually, one of those guys made a good point: Slavery has taken many forms throughout human history. Historians usually divide it into industrial slavery (ancient Egypt, Rome and the U.S.) and domestic slavery (Leviticus, Incas). American slavery was actually one of the cruelest and most brutal forms. I doubt that any form of slavery was good for the slaves, but the kind described in Leviticus--limited rights for slaves, all slaves set free once every fifty years, punishments for masters who killed their slaves, and no concept of slaves as an essentially different type of person (as in Dred Scott)--is at least a little gentler than the kind that sparked our civil war.

Oh, and Paul didn't just condemn homosexual sex. He didn't like heterosexual sex either.
germane. you fucking idiot.
In summary, anti-gay bigots want to shrug off biblical laws that would inconvenience them, but force others to follow laws that they (personally) happen to approve of. They want to take the Old Testament seriously when it can be used to damn others, but then turn around and dismiss it when it can be used to criticize them.

There are several words that come to mind when witnessing this type of behavior: hypocrite, coward, pampered, inconsistent, delusional, dishonest, weak. You'll notice that "Christ-like" isn't included in that list.

If Christians want us to stop talking about the Old Testament, then they need to quit bringing it up.
As a slightly conservative christian, I must say I agree with Dan 100%. Keep on speaking the truth you're getting through to more people then you know.
84: "Gentler than the worst possible form" is far too low a bar for people trying to proclaim ultimate moral authority. The slavery criticism still stands.

Especially since people did use it to justify the harsher American form of slavery. Maybe people think it's unfair to ask, "If the Bible got slavery wrong, what else did it get wrong?" Fine. Ask this instead, then: "If Christians can get the Bible's stance on slavery wrong, what else can they get wrong?"

You'll find that there's no possible approach whatsoever (literalism vs. open interpretation; historical contextualization vs. divine inspiration, bad interpretation then vs. good interpretation now, etc) that allows us to claim that [Biblical Law X] is a straightforward statement of God's will while [Biblical Law Y] was just sort of a temporary suggestion.
It's really a shame that someone who is so right about so many things gets nearly all his attention by being such an asshole. Dan...you're so right about all of this...and you still started this by being a prick. Have you decided that life is too short for honey, so it's going to be all vinegar, all the time?
@ 52, the point is that there are a lot of kids reading this stuff. They're a lot more pliable than the people you think Dan's answering, even if they're thumping that bible now. And not just kids - there are millions of adults who have probably never given this stuff any critical thought, but are encountering this now thanks to all the tweets and FB posts pinging all over the place. Believe it or not, but many people simply haven't formed a strong opinion before, have probably gone along with all the bigotry in the past and are now having a chance to learn what's what. THOSE are the people who need to be reached.
Josh is factually wrong about the nature of slavery in Roman times. It was not anything remotely benign, as he implies when he compares it to "indentured servitude." Slaves were war captives and insolvent debtors who were treated with extreme violence and had no legal protections of any kind. They could be - and frequently were - beaten, raped, tortured, and even killed by their masters, who could legally do anything to them, at any time for any reason. Roman slavery was at least as bad as, and arguably even worse than, slavery in the antebellum US South. I don't know where Josh got this idea, but it wasn't from anybody who knew what they were talking about.
Wow. Way to stick it to the intellectual contortionists, Dan!

When any evangelicals or others out to convert me ask me in patronizing tones whether I have ever read the Bible, I delight in informing them that yes, indeed I have, and that's why I'm an atheist today.
@84: It's true that Levitican and Roman slavery were things that might befall anyone. But the writer didn't just say it was slightly less severe if the laws were actually enforced; he compared it to indentured servitude, from which it was quite different.

I went and looked up the punishment for killing a slave, which is oddly vague. i.e. One should be punished. In a section that's all about very precise punishments for other stuff. e.g. If a man has sex with a female slave who is engaged or married, he has to give an animal sacrifice. She is to be whipped.
@ 52 "Dan, I wonder why you even bother to respond to these people. They are largely unteachable, incapable of critical thinking, unable, I think, to even think for themselves."

I didn't think Dan was responding to these people: you're right that they're irrational and for the most part unreachable. It's everyone else who is listening, lurking and amenable to reason who need to hear a response. The alternative is to ignore this BS, and, well, that doesn't generally work out very well for anyone except the bigots and @$$holes.
@27 All right, no one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle. Even... and I want to make this absolutely clear... even if they do say, "Jehovah".

There are a number of semantic dodges to justify Matthew 5:17-20, including a sermon by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church. I can't understand why, if the bible is the word of God, it requires quite so much determined rationalisation.
Dan, I hope you read this and use my thoughts. Forgive me if I say some things incorrectly but here is my take.

Isn't the part of Leviticus where it mentions "Man lying with Man as with a women" in the part where they are talking about health issues? Unclean, etc? The whole part about not eating shellfish (because back then they didn't realize you had to cook lobster while it was still alive, and the fact that shellfish often harbors some crappy germs) was to keep people healthy. Perhaps the part about women going out back when they have their period was for the same reason. Anyhow, think about the times back then. No toilet paper, little bathing, so just imagine the state of people's anus's. So perhaps this was just a passage to not have anal sex because to them at the time, the anus was a pretty dirty spot. When it says don't lie with a man as with a woman, maybe it's being specific about don't put your penis inside an anus because it was yuck (unclean). It doesn't say no oral sex. It doesn't say you can't love another man, it doesn't say you can't rub against each other or give hand jobs, and it doesn't say woman can't lie with woman as with a man. (they probably thought women didn't use their anus's that way when they were with other women.

So now of course we can get rid of this because we've learned much more about the anus and we are much cleaner.We've also learned that using a condom can protect against illness. Just like we've learned that shellfish can be eaten safely and that women are not unclean when they are having their period's.

In reading all of these comments, I see some major points that have been left out. Now, I know that these points will be used to buttress some arguments, but they can just as well point out the fallacies in the arguments against the Word of God. First of all, it says, quite clearly in the Bible, that we are not under the law, but under grace. Second of all, it says that GOD IS LOVE. So many of you seem to be ignoring those two things in your posts. I do not say that I am at all in agreement with homosexual behavior of any sort, but I am saying that the way this subject is being dealt with seems to be either by using examples of extremism, or by insulting people, or by "straining at gnats and swallowing camels". And the biggie, here? What about the fact that Jesus died for all of us, that when we receive the Holy Spirit, He will bring conviction on our hearts and will let us know when what we are doing is displeasing to the Lord. Christians who truly desire to know and to love and to serve the Lord know exactly what this means. And it does not mean persecuting sinners. One may abhor the behavior of a sinner, but one does not need to attack the sinner in a vitriolic manner. Do you who do so really think that this is the way to win them to Christ? It also does not mean that sinners get a free pass for what they do that is displeasing to the Lord. And I've also noticed that some writers have said things that indicate that the Word is fallible, or that things can be removed from it, in that we no longer need to acknowledge, or even act as if, they are there. Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. This He did by His life, death and resurrection. He also died on the cross for us because it is not possible for us to keep the law. As I already said, we are not under the law, but under grace. This, too, is in the Word. It says in Timothy that all scripture is God-breathed. This being the case, how do those who say the Word is fallible get around that verse? It also warns in Timothy against adding to or subtracting from the Word. Why, then, is it OK to do so? If anyone who is commenting is doing any of the things that the Word warns against, or is overlooking any of the things I have said about who Jesus is, what He did, and that He, and God, love us, then they weaken and even refute their argument, unless it is OK to pick and choose verses only some of the time, but entirely OK to ignore verses all of the time. If you are basing your argument on the very Word you are quoting, it becomes very convenient to pick and choose. One final thing. The slavery controversy seems to be a major thing here. The comment that identifies slavery as either a form of apprenticeship or where the slave was actually an indentured servant is factually correct. In fact, the Word warns against mistreating slaves. So, yes, it is obvious that Southern slave owners overlooked those verses. Blatantly obvious, I would say. And they ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit, too. Another fact that has not been brought up about slavery in the Bible is that slaves were eventually given the choice to leave the home of the person they were serving. If they left, they were to be provided for, so they could establish their own household. If they stayed, they stayed as free people, choosing to serve the household. In all of this, there are two things that I want to say. I pray that those of you who do not know the Lord's love and His forgiveness will come to do so, and I also want you to know that I do not persecute sinners. As the Word also says, "He who is without sin cast the first stone".
"The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell."

"The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge."

--Bertrand Russell
@ 97

Fuck you. If you want to spend your time abhorring what I do in my life that brings joy to myself and others, and giving long-winded rambles about how, if I just saw things your way then I would agree with you... just fuck off.

The boiler-plate Xtianist bullshit about "loving the sinner" and "we are all sinners" is simply cheap claptrap to make you think you are being a decent human being while you stop by to let me, and others like me, know how much you disapprove of my life. So shut the fuck up and fuck off.

Fuck. Off.

...but you know I don't hate you, just the way you act.
Dear Dan, You seem to know much about the bible. That is good. There are though many interpretations of the bible. It reads in scripture God is good. He also is love. We humans are not infallible. We have made many mistakes since the birth of creation and we will continue to do so, yet many of us not willingly. God made laws to follow through the law of the Jews in the old Testement. We would not know we were sinners if not for the law, would you agree. Slavery is a huge topic. You cannot generalize it. I will give you an example. If you owed someone money and you could not repay nor had anything of value to repay the debt you could offer yourself as a servant until the debt was paid. This is not wrong to do.The slaves of the South was another example, that was wrong. In the bible people did own slaves They could have been captives from a battle. Here we have a people who would have been killed put in servitude. Was that wrong? They were fed, even protected. In many cases they became members of one's household. It is not slavery that is wrong but how they could have been treated. I would like you to think of something. Remember, God is love. Christ paid a price to prove how loving He is. No matter what anyone has done in life, they can ask the Lord into their heart and repent and he will be forgiven. No matter what someone has done as Christ paid the price. We have made many mistakes in the past. You have also. Repent and come to the Lord before it is too late. Sin is sin. Sin is an evil act that goes against God. We are all sinners. I am also but I have been saved by grace through the love of Christ. I pray you accept this comment with the love in which it was written. K Accomando
If one accepts the New Testament, one has to accept the entirety of the Old Testament, taking the so-called good with the unambiguously bad. In doing so, the entire New Testament is rendered hypocritical. Here's why:

1) God both commands and approves of slavery, looting, and genocide, going so far as to actively engage in the latter.

(Of many the many examples of this sprinkled throughout the Old Testament, here is a long passage that includes all of the above:
Joshua 8:1-11:23)

2) Jesus is God.

(Does this really need to be cited? If one wishes to state that the Trinity makes Jesus distinct from "God the Father", please reference the following:
John 1:1,14, 8:24, 10:30-33, 20:28-29, and Colossians 2:8-10)

3) If God both commands and approves of slavery, looting, and genocide, going so far as to actively engage in the latter, and Jesus is God, ergo, Jesus both commands and approves of slavery, looting, and genocide, going so far as to actively engage in the latter.

So much for the Prince of Peace.