Humanist Ethics vs. Biblical Ethics

Fundamentalist Christians often accuse Humanism of causing a decline in ethical standards. They call for a return to “biblical morality.”

But an examination of the biblical God’s behavior shows that the Humanist system of ethics, which is based on reason and compassion, is far superior to the ethical standards contained in the Bible.

Based on biblical teachings, Christians say their God is a perfect example of love and justice. Some of the verses supporting their claim are I John 4:8 (“God is love”), Isaiah 30:18 (“the Lord is a God of justice”), and Psalm 18:30 (the Lord’s “way is perfect”).

Under Humanist ethical standards, however, many of the biblical God’s acts are considered cruel and unjust. Examples are the following: he condemned the whole human race because of the acts of two people (Gen. 3:16-23, Rom. 5:15); he drowned pregnant women and innocent children and animals at the time of the Flood (Gen. 7:20-23); and he killed Egyptian babies at the time of the Passover (Exod. 12:29-30).

Subsequent to the Exodus, he ordered the Israelites to annihilate the men, women, and children of seven nations and steal their land (Deut. 7:1-2); he sent a plague that killed 70,000 people because King David took a census (II Sam. 24:15); and he sanctioned slavery (e.g., Lev. 25:44-46), polygamy (e.g., II Sam. 12:7-11), and religious persecution (e.g., Deut. 13:12-16).

He required the death penalty for such “crimes” as working on the Sabbath (Exod. 31:15), cursing one’s parents (Lev. 20:9), blasphemy (Lev. 24:11-16), homosexuality (Lev. 20:13), and not being a virgin on one’s wedding night (Deut. 22:20-21).

He repeatedly punished the Israelites with wars, famines, and pestilences (e.g., Ezek. 5:11-17); he sent two bears that killed 42 children because they were making fun of a prophet’s bald head (II Kings 2:23-24); he sent a lying spirit to deceive King Ahab’s prophets (I Kings 22:19-23); he ordered that a woman’s hand be chopped off (Deut. 25:11-12); he required the torture and murder of his own son (e.g., Rom. 3:24-25); and he promised to send to eternal torture those who do not accept Christianity (e.g. Rev. 21:8).

Humanists are convinced that when such acts are equated with love and justice, the result can be a complete subversion of all civilized and enlightened standards of ethical behavior. People can then view the most inane and horrendous acts as perfectly acceptable, because the Bible’s “God of love” behaved similarly.

With the biblical God as a role model, no wonder virtually the whole Christian world saw nothing wrong with acts such as the Inquisition; the Crusades; the burning of witches; the religious wars in Europe; the pogroms carried out against Jewish communities; the enslavement of Africans; the persecution and killing of homosexuals; the beating of children; the inhumane treatment of the mentally ill; the suppression of scientists; the use of torture in criminal interrogations; and the whippings, mutilations, and brutal executions of criminals. Those occurrences were a regular part of Christian society for hundreds of years.

Biblical teachings and their influence on history led the American patriot Thomas Paine to say about the Bible: “It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest everything that is cruel.”

As a result of an increasing reliance on reason and compassion, humankind has developed ethical standards that are vastly more intelligent and humane than those contained in the Bible.

Humanity needs to continue that process rather than revert to barbaric and harmful ideas produced in an ignorant and superstitious past.