The Women-Hater’s Handbook
This is the third of a multi-part series detailing my path from Christianity to non-belief. Click here to read the previous chapter, From Religious Credulity to Healthy Skepticism.
My previous two posts detail my Christian past, and how I eventually began to question my beliefs after the birth of my two children. This process resulted in my purchase of a Bible at the local Christian bookstore approximately six years ago. I then began to read these scriptures and reacquaint myself with them after more than 20 years.
After I purchased the Bible, I thumbed through the pages. This is what I was thinking,
If you’re going to hand me a book and suggest that it’s written or inspired by the creator of the universe – in whole or part – then it had better be a book of exceptional merit. It had better amaze me with language, ideas and argument, and reveal mind-expanding truths found in no other text. The standards are high for any writing authored or inspired by the entity who set the universe expanding, planets spinning, and the sun shining.
I understood that some Biblical proponents claimed that the Bible revealed the true nature of our existence, our reason and purpose, our abject reality. Philosophers and scientists have agonized over these questions for millennia – and this book purportedly had all the answers composed in neat columned type between a faux leather cover. (My copy, anyway – I chose an inexpensive NIV.)
Even if all Christians couldn’t agree on how to characterize and view the Bible, they all claimed that it’s the best book we had. This is why I read the Bible with an open and curious mind. I started at Genesis and read on through to Revelation. I was actually prepared for a reaffirmation and re-connection after many years of ignoring religion. After all, many have said that the Bible is “god’s word” or that it’s “inspired by god,” or that it contains verses that “speak” to them, provides wise moral instruction, and so forth.
I even knew that god was a prolific author. He’d sold more books than J.K. Rowling. He’d written the the Koran and the The Book of Mormon, so he was well-lettered. The burden, it seemed to me, was with the bible to prove itself. I figured with my mediocre intelligence, and a little work, I could discern if this book was, in whole or part, divine. If god can’t convince me, who could? I wasn’t expecting the book to emit some incandescent glow every time I folded the covers back, but I was expecting to be impressed.
I found that it is easier to be impressed with the Bible if you’re not a woman, because women don’t fare very well in this book. If you want to know how to systematically and institutionally devalue women, then the Bible is the book for you; it’s a misogynist’s dream, a handbook for women-hater’s. I was shocked, disturbed and disappointed.
In Genesis 19:1-8, for example, the ever hospitable Lott offers up his daughters for the townspeople to rape in lieu of his powerful angelic guests. His daughters repay him later by inebriating him and riding him like a John Deere tractor, leading to a verse in the bible with the most ick factor: “So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father,” Genesis 19:36.
In much the same manner a Levite offers up his concubine to the wicked townspeople, “and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go,” Judges 19:25. The Levite then cuts her up into 12 pieces. Really. I’m not making this up.
Women are worth approximately one-half of what men are worth, Leviticus 27:3-4; a discovered rapist must buy his unbetrothed rape victim from the father for fifty shekels and must marry her, and, lucky woman, he can never divorce her, Deuteronomy 22:28-29.
It doesn’t get much better for women in the New Testament, either. It is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35; according to 1 Corinthians 11:3,
But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
And 1 Corinthians 11:7-9,
A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
Wives must submit to their husbands, Colossians 3:18; and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 says,
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
God doesn’t overlook child sacrifice, either. I went from being disturbed by the binding of Isaac to shocked by the story of Jephthah and his young daughter in Judges 11. She is burned on the altar at the end because of a promise to God.
Are your children rebellious? Don’t ground them – stone them, Deuteronomy 21:18-21. Do you want to put in a little extra effort and go to work another day? Don’t do it, it’s a stoning offense, Exodus 35:2. Besides, who needs to work hard when all you need is a servant or slave to do it. If they don’t, just beat them a few times. As long as you don’t kill them, it’s okay with God, Exodus 21:20-21, Luke 12:47-48.
In Genesis we have the story I like to refer to as “Swingin’ with Abe,” in which the childless Sarah gives her servant to Abraham to impregnate. Is this what is meant by “biblical marriage?” The patriarchs seemed to think so. King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, 1 Kings 11. King David wanted to party with Bathsheba, so he had her husband killed. When god became angry, he didn’t kill King David, but David’s innocent child instead. How’s that for justice?
And no greater leadership example is better than Moses in Exodus 32, when his fellow tribesman ere unruly and worshiping the wrong deity, Moses followed god’s decisive leadership strategy:
Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.
Three thousand brothers, friends and neighbors were killed, according to this great exemplar of moral behavior.
A Christian extolling the virtues of the Bible is similar to a mother making excuses for a problem child only she could love. She’ll tell you that the kid is really loving and caring, and that he’s simply misunderstood. She’ll say all this as mama’s little darling lights your pant leg on fire. Christian’s simply dismiss atrocities with statements such as, “That’s in the Old Testament, and that’s just the way things were with every society back then.” Pardon me, but adopting the ancient status quo to validate genocide, infanticide, slavery and abuse, is not an indication of a “holy,” “moral” or “divine” book.
The Bible requires far too many excuses, caveats and explanations to merit the esteem it receives from its followers. Should we revere a tome that requires a copious amount of footnotes and asides to render its absurdities minimally understandable and acceptable? Or should we revere a book that is ageless, timeless, clearly and self-evidently pure, honest, moral and transcendent? The latter has never been written; the former is produced too often and too easily.