Some Christian groups want their “Judeo-Christian values” written into law, especially in regard to sex.
For instance, the Cincinnati-based group Citizens for Community Values (CCV), which is associated with Focus on the Family, constantly works to have its views of sexual morality placed in the state laws of Ohio.
Claiming on its website that its purpose is to promote Judeo-Christian values, CCV tries to have laws enacted to restrict the types of relationships people can enter into; the kinds of books and magazines they can read; and the types of movies, television programs, websites, and live entertainment they can see.
CCV obtains its Judeo-Christian values from the Bible. The group cites verses from the Old and New Testaments to justify its acts.
But the Bible contains many ignorant and harmful teachings about sex. As a result, an unquestioning reliance on the book is a mistaken and dangerous way to obtain a sexual morality.
Some Biblical absurdities about sex
Death penalty for various sex acts
In the Old Testament, the Law of Moses prescribes the death penalty for a number of sex acts, some of which can be harmless.
At Deuteronomy 22:20-21, the death penalty is required for a woman found to not be a virgin on her wedding night. She is to be brought to the door of her father’s house, and “the men of her city shall stone her to death.”
The very next verse calls for the death penalty for adultery: “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die.”
The same punishment applies to homosexual behavior. Leviticus 20:13 states: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death.”
In other verses in Leviticus chapter 20, death is the punishment for both parties if a man has sex with his father’s wife (verse 11) or with his daughter-in-law (verse 12). The same punishment applies to a man or woman who has sex with an animal (verses 15-16, which also require the animal to be killed). And if a man has sex with his wife and her mother, all three shall be burned (verse 14).
Likewise, Leviticus 21:9 directs that if a priest’s daughter becomes a prostitute, she shall be burned.
In the New Testament, Jesus upheld all those cruel and ridiculous provisions of the Law of Moses. He said at Matthew 5:17-18: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets: I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.”
Jesus went on to say at the next verse: “Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
At Luke 16:17, Jesus similarly taught that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void.”
To support the death penalty for harmless acts is an extreme form of injustice, barbarity, and ignorance.
Polygamy and concubinage
CCV led a political crusade in 2004 to have Ohio’s constitution changed to provide that only “a union between one man and one woman” can be a valid marriage in Ohio. Christian groups have worked to enact similar constitutional provisions in many other states.
But the Bible contains numerous statements inconsistent with that view. It allows a man to have multiple wives.
The Bible says the wisest man did so to an extreme degree. According to I Kings 4:31, King Solomon “was wiser than all other men.” And I Kings 11:3 tells us he had 700 wives and 300 concubines.
Solomon’s father, King David, is described at I Kings 15:5 as having done what was right in the Lord’s eyes. David is depicted at I Samuel 25:42-43 as having more than one wife. His ten concubines are mentioned at II Samuel 15:16.
In fact, II Samuel 12:7-8 says God himself gave Saul’s wives to David. That could not more clearly show God’s approval of polygamy.
At Genesis 17:4, God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations. Genesis 16:1-4 informs us that after Abraham’s wife Sarai failed to bear him any children, she gave him her servant Hagar as a wife. Hagar then conceived a child by Abraham.
Gideon has been honored by having an international Bible society named after him. At Judges 8:30-31, we are told he had many wives and 70 sons.
Other polygamists in the Old Testament include Esau (Genesis 28:8-9), Jacob (Genesis 29:15-30 and 30:3-13), Elkanah (I Samuel 1:1-2), Jehoiachin (II Kings 24:15), Caleb (I Chronicles 2:46-48), Manassah (I Chronicles 7:14), Rehoboam (II Chronicles 11:21), Abijah (II Chronicles 13:21), Jehoram (II Chronicles 21:14-17), and Joash (II Chronicles 24:1-3).
Deuteronomy 21:15-17 gives instructions for when a man having two wives distributes property to the son of a wife who is loved and the son of the other wife who is not loved.
Song of Songs 6:8-9 includes praises to a bride who excels a king’s princesses, concubines, and the women in his harem.
At Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus told a parable about ten brides going out to meet a bridegroom. Five of the brides were wise and the rest were foolish. Only the five wise ones were allowed into the marriage feast.
Although that was a clear instance of polygamy, Jesus did not condemn the practice. He instead compared it to the kingdom of heaven.
Further, Jesus spoke approvingly of Solomon’s “glory” (Matthew 6:29) and “wisdom” (Matthew 12:42). But he had no criticism of Solomon’s hundreds of wives and concubines.
Jesus also mentioned the polygamists David (Mark 2:25-26; Luke 20:41-44), Abraham (Luke 16:22-31; John 8:39), and Jacob (Matthew 22:32). He did not criticize their practice of taking multiple wives. And according to Acts 13:22, God said, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.”
In view of these biblical teachings, it’s hard to understand how CCV can claim that Judeo-Christian values support the view that marriage consists only of a union between one man and one woman.
Sexual abuse of women captured in war
Numbers 31 states that at the Lord’s command, Moses told his soldiers to attack the Midianites.
In carrying out that order, the Israelite army killed the Midianite men, plundered the animals and other property, took captive the women and children, and burned the cities.
When Moses met the returning soldiers, he was angry that they had spared the women. Then he told them to “kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”
Telling soldiers to “keep alive for yourselves” virgin females captured in war could not carry stronger connotations of rape and other sexual abuse. That’s particularly true after the same brutes had just mercilessly killed the rest of the Midianites, including women, children, and the elderly.
The Lord had no problem with any of these acts. Later in the same chapter, he gave Moses instructions on how to distribute the captured property and virgins among the Israelites.
Deuteronomy 21:10-14 states that if an Israelite soldier sees a beautiful woman among the captives taken in war, he can bring her home and require her to be his wife. After the woman has mourned her father and mother a month, the soldier can have sex with her.
In the New Testament, Jesus apparently approved of what happened to the Midianites. He didn’t have anything bad to say about Moses.
To the contrary, at John 5:45-47 Jesus criticized the Jews for not believing Moses. He told them: “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father: it is Moses who accuses you. . . . If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
According to the account of the Transfiguration at Matthew 17:1-5, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus and conversed with him while Jesus’ face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. Several of Jesus’ disciples were also there, and God showed up to reveal that Jesus was his son.
By including Moses at such a solemn and important event, Jesus and the New Testament God clearly thought highly of that murderer and war criminal. They can truly be said to be palling around with terrorists.
Rape as punishment from the Lord
Other Bible verses show that the Lord not only allows but advocates the rape of women captured in war. He sometimes considers rape an appropriate punishment for those who displease him.
Isaiah 13:16 states that on the Day of the Lord, his punishment of Babylon will include: “Their infants will be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished.”
Rape can also be divine retribution for the Lord’s own people. Lamentations 5:11 describes part of the Lord’s punishment: “Women are ravished in Zion, virgins in the towns of Judah.”
Additionally, Zachariah 14:2 gives this message from the Lord: “I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished.”
Even God himself gets involved in sexual molestation. Isaiah 3:17 says “the Lord will smite with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts.”
That’s redolent of Thomas Paine describing the Virgin Birth as resulting from Mary being “debauched by a ghost” – a story he considered as “blasphemously obscene.”
In any event, the Bible clearly teaches that in some situations, rapists are doing God’s will and their victims deserve what they got.
With such teachings in the book, CCV could do better work by denouncing the Bible instead of the nonviolent pornography the group tries to censor.
Betrothed woman raped in the city must be put to death
For situations not involving war, the Lord’s instructions concerning rape are also cruel and ridiculous.
Deuteronomy 22:23-24 states that if a woman is engaged to be married but has sex with a man in a city, they are both to be brought to the city’s gate and stoned to death. The woman receives this punishment because she did not cry out for help.
Apparently, neither the writer of the passage nor the omniscient deity who supposedly inspired it considered that the woman may have been attacked and physically prevented from crying out. Or the attacker may have threatened to kill her and her family if she did. Or she may have had laryngitis. Or any of numerous other factors could have prevented her from screaming so that someone in the city would hear her.
None of those possible extenuating circumstances mattered. She was to be executed, and that’s it.
As for the man, the reason for executing him is that “he violated his neighbor’s wife; so you shall purge the evil from the midst of you.” This is additional proof that the writer had no empathy for the woman.
The writer saw the offense as being against only the marital rights of the husband, as if the woman was merely his property.
Woman raped in the country must marry her rapist
Deuteronomy Chapter 22 goes on to provide instructions for the situation where a virgin who is not engaged to be married is raped in the country.
Verses 28 to 29 state that if the man and woman are discovered, the man must marry her and can never divorce her. Whether she wants to marry him is irrelevant.
Because the man “has violated her,” he must also pay the woman’s father 50 shekels of silver. Nothing is said about the man having to pay damages to the woman. The writer obviously didn’t care about the harm to her.
This is another instance of a rape victim being someone else’s damaged property – this time her father’s – and having no interest in or say about the matter.
But the cruelest blow is that she must marry her rapist and remain married to him for life.
Of course, the horrible instructions dealing with rape in Deuteronomy Chapter 22 are part of the Mosaic Law, which Jesus said he came to uphold.
Lot offers his virgin daughters to a lecherous mob
According to Genesis 19:1-29, after God decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah he sent two angels to Sodom. Lot invited the angels to spend the night at his home.
The men of the city came to Lot’s house and demanded to see the two visitors in order to have sex with them. Lot said no.
But then Lot offered the men his two virgin daughters. He told the men to “do to them as you please.” Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
The fact remains, though, that Lot acted as if he owned the daughters and didn’t care the least bit about them. He gave a mob permission to rape and do anything else they wanted to them.
Amazingly, God deemed Lot to be the only righteous man in Sodom. The angels told Lot, his wife, and two daughters to leave the city to avoid the fire and brimstone that would soon rain down on it. The angels also told them not to look back.
But when Lot and his family fled the city, his wife looked back, probably concerned about her friends. As a result, she was turned into a pillar of salt.
With righteousness like Lot’s, it’s chilling to imagine what God would consider evil. God obviously saw nothing wrong with Lot’s despicable treatment of the daughters. And he killed Lot’s wife for a harmless and understandable act.
Lot gets drunk, impregnates his daughters, and receives accolades
The story of the “righteous” Lot goes on to relate, at Genesis 19:30-38, that after he and his daughters escaped the destruction of Sodom, they lived in a cave in the hills.
The daughters became concerned that there were no men for them in the area. So they came up with a plan to enable their family to have descendants.
The daughters got Lot drunk on wine one night, and the oldest had sex with him. Lot was so wasted that he didn’t know what happened.
On the next night, the daughters gave Lot more wine and got him drunk again. This time the younger one had sex with him. And he was again so sloshed he didn’t know about it.
The story goes on to explain that both daughters became pregnant by that means. The older daughter bore a son who became the ancestor of the Moabites. The younger daughter’s son became the ancestor of the Ammonites.
Although this story gives an unfavorable origin of two of Israel’s traditional enemies, it’s a shame the incestuous and drunken protagonist is described as righteous. Readers of the story could get the impression they can behave the same and still be virtuous.
The New Testament wouldn’t disabuse them of that idea. At Luke 17:28-32, Jesus mentioned Lot but didn’t have anything bad to say about him – neither in regard to Lot’s offer to have the daughters raped by a mob nor his incest with them. Instead, Jesus warned his listeners not to be like Lot’s wife. And II Peter 2:7-8 describes Lot as a “righteous man” having a “righteous soul.”
Nevertheless, CCV and other Christian groups want people to use the Bible as a guide for sexual behavior.
After throwing his concubine to a salacious and murderous crowd, a Levite mutilates her corpse
Judges 19:10-30 contains a story having similarities to the one about Lot offering his daughters to the mob. In this tale, a Levite and his concubine were traveling and stopped for the night in Gibeah, which belonged to the Israelite tribe of Benjamin.
An old man invited them to stay at his house. The men of the city, who were “base fellows,” later surrounded the house, beat against the door, and demanded that the old man send out the Levite so they could have sex with him.
The old man refused. But he did offer them his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine. He told the men, “Ravish them and do with them what seems good to you; but against this man do not do so vile a thing.”
When the men refused to listen to the old man, the Levite threw his concubine outside to them. They abused her all night, including having sex with her, and let her go at daybreak. She collapsed at the entrance of the old man’s house.
As the Levite was leaving to resume his journey, he saw his concubine on the ground. Instead of asking if she was all right or trying to assist her, he said, “Get up, let us be going.”
But she did not answer, apparently because she was dead by then. So the Levite lifted her onto his donkey and headed for home.
Once inside his house, the Levite took a knife and cut the concubine “limb by limb, into twelve pieces.” Then he sent the pieces “throughout all the territory of Israel.”
This impelled the other Israelite tribes to oppose the tribe of Benjamin because of the evil done in Gibeah. According to Judges Chapter 20, those tribes soon attacked the Benjamites at the Lord’s command.
But the story of the Levite contains no condemnation of the old man’s offer to allow the mob to rape the two women, of the Levite throwing his concubine to the mob, of the Levite’s callous treatment of the concubine upon finding her on the ground, or of his abusing her corpse by cutting it up and sending the pieces to others.
The logical conclusion is that there was nothing wrong with such behavior under the circumstances. And similar acts might also be acceptable in other situations.
Murder and kidnapping to obtain wives for the Benjamites
In the war against the tribe of Benjamin following the matter of the Levite and his concubine, the other Israelite tribes wiped out all of the Benjamites except for 600 men who had escaped.
According to Judges Chapter 21, those tribes then lamented that they had caused one of the tribes of Israel to be in danger of ending. To allow the tribe of Benjamin to continue, the Israelites decided to obtain wives for the remaining 600 Benjamites.
But the Lord’s chosen people had strange ideas about how to play matchmaker.
First, they remembered that the Israelites at Jabesh-gilead had not assisted in the war against the Benjamites. So 12,000 soldiers were sent to attack Jabesh-gilead and put to the sword all the males and every woman who was not a virgin. The soldiers spared the virgins, who numbered 400.
Then the Israelites sent messengers to the surviving Benjamites and made peace with them. The Benjamites came back and were given the virgins as wives. These women were treated like mere property plundered in war, and had no say about their fate.
Unfortunately, 400 virgins were not enough wives for 600 Benjamite males. The Israelites’ next idea was to tell the Benjamites to snatch the women of Shiloh when they came out to dance at the yearly feast of the Lord.
So the Benjamites hid in the vineyards until the women of Shiloh went out to dance. The Benjamites seized the dancers and carried them back to the land of Benjamin to be their wives. There is no indication the women were permitted to say goodbye to their families or inform them of the impending nuptials.
They too were treated as mere property. And their lack of consent to what happened supports an argument that the story also involves rape.
These murderous and coercive tactics enabled the Benjamites to obtain wives. People who commit such acts today would be imprisoned with no chance of ever being released.
Cut off body parts as a response to sexual thoughts
Besides approving the cruel and absurd teachings about sex in the Old Testament, Jesus added some of his own.
According to him, natural sexual feelings can cause a person to be sent to eternal torture in hell. To avoid that fate, he encouraged people to take the extreme and nonsensical act of self-mutilation.
At Matthew 5:28-29, Jesus said that if a man looks at a woman with lust, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Then Jesus taught: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”
Jesus went on to state at the next verse that “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” This teaching was apparently in regard to masturbation.
Jesus gave similar directions at Matthew 18:8-9 about plucking out eyes and cutting off hands. And he added that if “your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.” Whatever the reference to cutting off a foot was about, there is surely no sensible reason for dealing with the matter that way.
In the June/July 1984 issue of Freethought Today, a letter from a physician identified a terrible harm of such teachings. The physician said that when he was working in an emergency room at the University Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, a physically healthy young man was brought in after cutting off his penis.
The patient was a university student who had become self-destructive after reading the Bible’s teachings to cast off body parts that offend the spirit. The physician related that many similar cases have occurred in medical history.
Jesus’ support for castration has likewise produced harms. At Matt. 19:12, he said some men have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. And he taught: “He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”
In his 2008 book Godless, Dan Barker notes that although modern Christians want to interpret that teaching figuratively, “the literal meaning is ‘castrate’ and many devout Christian men in history have done it to themselves, including the early church father Origen and entire monastic orders.” Barker also points out that in modern times, the Heaven’s Gate cult did the same.
These teachings, and the resulting unnecessary and horrifying acts, are nothing less than insane.
Why assume the Bible’s other teachings on sex are correct?
Despite the obvious lunacy of many sexual teachings in the Old and New Testaments, Christians often advocate that people unquestioningly accept certain biblical pronouncements about sex. And they want to write those prescriptions into law.
In particular, they try to impose on all of society the Bible’s denunciations of adultery (e.g., Romans 13:9, Hebrews 13:4); fornication (e.g., Matthew 15:19-20, Galatians 5:19-21); divorce and remarriage (e.g., Mark 10:11-12); prostitution (e.g., I Corinthians 6:15-16); masturbation (e.g., Genesis 38:9-10); homosexuality (e.g., I Timothy 1:9-10); nudity (e.g., Genesis 3:7, Revelation 16:15); lust (e.g., Colossians 3:5-6, I John 2:15-16); and bodily desires (e.g., Romans 13:14). Biblical condemnation of the latter three forms part of the basis some Christian groups use for opposing pornography and other adult entertainment.
But scientific evidence has been put forward indicating all the matters listed in the preceding paragraph can be beneficial in some circumstances. Thus, to blindly follow the Bible’s teachings on those subjects could be harmful, just as following the obviously insane verses would be.
For example, opposition to adultery is a good teaching for many couples. Adultery can sometimes lead to the breakup of marriages and families.
In some circumstances, though, the use of a “surrogate partner” has been a beneficial part of a spouse’s sex therapy, enabling the person to work on sexual problems with an expert on sex. Married persons constitute a small percentage of the clients that sex surrogates work with. Of the married clientele, the therapy of a small percentage may include sexual intercourse with the surrogate for treatment of certain sexual dysfunctions, in accordance with instructions of a therapist.
By helping a spouse improve sexual abilities and confidence, the therapist and the surrogate can improve the sex life of the married couple, thus strengthening the marriage.
Additionally, some married couples have reported that their relationships were improved by “swinging.” They say it enabled the partners to fulfill a desire for sexual variety and adventure without guilt, spiced up what had become a banal sex life without threatening the relationship, and increased their openness and trust with each other.
In fact, a 2000 study by Professors Curtis Bergstrand and Jennifer Blevins Williams of Bellarmine University reported that many couples who engage in swinging state that their marriages are stronger, happier, and more exciting than those of the nonswinging population. The swinging couples also said they had higher overall satisfaction with life.
At the same time, the couples in the study placed a high value on “emotional monogamy” in marriage, on commitment to the love relationship with the spouse, and on the happiness that can come from family.
Although surrogate partners and swinging may be of interest to only a small minority of married couples, the point is that the Bible’s blanket prohibition on adultery could be harmful to people who might benefit from those matters.
Another example of harm involves the Bible’s condemnation of fornication. In view of the fact that millions of unmarried opposite-sex couples cohabitate in the U.S., many persons obviously find sexual relationships outside of marriage to be satisfying and beneficial.
Some people have reported that premarital sexual relationships improved their ability to perform sexually and enabled them to more intelligently choose a marriage partner. They say that, as is true about other activities, they became better at sex and love with practice. As a result, they were eventually able to build strong and lasting marriages.
Further, sex researcher and educator John Ince writes: “By the teenage years most people have surging sexual needs. If they can fulfill those desires only within marriage, then they will tend to rush into marriage. Such a system cannot optimize marital happiness. It simply pushes up the divorce rate.” Under this view, opposing all premarital sex leads to broken families.
There is also compelling scientific evidence opposing the Bible’s blanket condemnations of matters such as prostitution, homosexuality, nudity, lust, and masturbation. As is the case with adultery and fornication, whether those things are wrong depends on the circumstances and the consequences.
In response to those who say society must follow a particular sexual teaching because it’s in the Bible, rational people should point out that the Bible has many absurd teachings about sex.
If we were to accept sexual teachings merely because they are in the Bible, society would indeed be insane in its attitudes and behavior regarding sex.
Even religious groups such as CCV display an unspoken acknowledgement that many of the Bible’s lessons about sex should be rejected. If they didn’t feel this way, they would be promoting all the Bible’s sexual teachings instead of cherry-picking certain ones to impose on others.
For some reason, though, those people fail to realize that because the Bible contains many sexual teachings that are clearly nonsensical, there is no logical reason to automatically assume its other teachings about sex are correct. Although the other teachings might not be as obviously incorrect, they could be just as wrong and harmful.
Thus, the Bible’s sexual teachings need to be humanistically examined in the light of reason and compassion, with the objective of determining whether they are conducive to human happiness. Teachings meeting this test should be retained. And the ones that don’t should be replaced with the best information that scientific knowledge provides.
On the subject of sex, only an application of the scientific method can prevent the Bible from perpetuating ignorance, causing misery, and blocking progress.