I am occasionally asked, by well-meaning Christians, how can I be good without God and the Bible. The truth is that I find the Bible to be a highly immoral book, in which God or his prophets perform immoral actions, but which are presented as moral because they were done by God.
When Abraham heard a voice telling him to kill his own son he was ready to obey right away. His son was only spared because an “angel” physically stopped him. In 2001, Andrea Yates heard a voice in her head telling her to kill her children. She was determined to be as holy as Abraham, though no angel appeared to stop her as she drowned all five.
When Moses freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the Pharaoh decided to release them right away – but God hardened Pharaoh’s heart several times, and punished him, along with all the Egyptians each time for having a hard heart, culminating in the killing of all first born children. Cecil B. DeMille was so uncomfortable with this that he invented a female character in The Ten Commandments and made her harden Pharaoh’s heart instead.
One recurring characteristic of the Biblical god is his habit of punishing everyone for the misdeeds of a few. In the story of Noah, he drowns everybody and everything in the world except for the contents of one large boat. In Sodom he kills everyone, explicitly decreeing that even the trees had to share in the punishment. Is it possible that nobody was innocent? Not a single child?
When the Hebrews were freed from slavery in Egypt, they encountered the peaceful Midianites and fell on them, slaughtering all the men. Moses was angry with them – for leaving the women and children alive. He sent them back to complete the job, however allowing them to keep for their own use any virgin girls they found.
The Bible contains instructions on selling your daughter as a slave, and imposes the death penalty on a woman who cheats on her husband, though a man can have as many wives and concubines as he could afford – and if a man rapes a virgin, he has to pay her father a sum of money, and then she has to marry her rapist.
Clearly these are very immoral. Although the New Testament is a major improvement, it also has its problems. Paul makes it clear that women are inferior to men, and that slaves should serve their owners as if they were serving God. Of course, most Christians today do not follow these examples. Anybody who tried applying the morality of the Old Testament today would find themselves behind bars. What happens is that people look through the Bible to find and follow the “good bits” while rejecting the immorality. But, in order to do this, the Bible itself cannot be the source of morality. Something else, external to the Bible, is being used to judge what is moral or not, and then the Bible is used merely to supply verses to support it. That source of morality is us – humans. We are the source of morality, or as Protagoras said 5 centuries before Jesus, “Man is the measure of all things”.
Once we accept that the Bible and its deity are not the source of morality we can set it aside and approach morality through reason – and that is at the heart of what Humanism is about.