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Contents

of this page...
Old Testament/Torah

Thou shalt not kill
Ten Commandments and rape
Kill anyone who tries to convert you?
Moses and the Midianites
Joshua and Jericho
Omnipotent or not?
Slavery, stoning
Human sacrifice

New Testament

Moral teachings of Jesus
Camel and needle
Love your enemies
Love thy neighbour
One god, or more?
Environment
Son of David
Judas
Conclusion
Links
Index

The Bible:
Some of the bits less quoted

Written 2008/08/07, modified 2016/05/28
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com welcome

Many Christians say, and believe, that without the Bible we would have nothing on which to base ethical behaviour. On the contrary, there are many acts of the prophets recorded in the Bible that are appallingly unethical; that would, if committed in the modern world, be called terrible crimes against humanity. On this page are just a few examples.

On the other hand, the moral teachings of Jesus are commonly ignored by many who call themselves Christians.

Other problems with the Bible are that it doesn't tell us about one god, it tells us about at least two, even the god of the Old Testament is inconsistent, few believers seem to think about who wrote it, and why does the Bible not tell us to look after the world?

God's word?

Some people say that the Bible is actually the word of God, but I would point out that many of the Psalms were reputedly written by King David, and who wrote the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; the Epistles of Saint Paul; who were the Revelations revealed to? The word 'testament' (as in Old and New Testaments) is defined as a 'profession of belief', which requires a believer to record his belief.

Genesis was an attempt, using the state of knowledge as it was at that time and place, to try to explain the World. It was perhaps as good as could be done at the time and place; it was certainly impressive prose, but we have moved on since then, because of Science.

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Flying spaghetti monster
The Flying Spaghetti Monster is just as valid a god as the god of the Christians.


On similar subjects

Ethics
Christian virtues
God's Word
Immortal soul
Is God real?
Militant Islam
Islam's threat
Religion is a false belief


Ethics in the Old Testament

The Bible would have us believe that Moses and Joshua were chosen by God to do God's work. A person who reads the Bible would reasonably expect that such people would be examples of good behaviour. Instead we find that, by modern standards, they were guilty of genocide, mass murder, even terrorism. So far as I know, the Bible does not point out that these acts of Moses and Joshua were unethical and these men should not be held up as models of good behaviour.

The reader of the Bible cannot get guidance on ethics from that work. He has to have an existing knowledge of ethics in order to decide which bits of the Bible are upholding ethical standards and which bits are not. If the Bible was generally accepted just as an old book that contained some wisdom, some history, and some writings that are very dated and dubious in the messages they give, that would be acceptable, but we are told it is a holy book and at least some hold that it is the 'word of God'.

Philosophers from Socrates on to Russell and Singer give an infinitely better guide to what is ethical. We accept that they are human and fallible and consequently we take their writings as advice rather than law.



Exodus, Chapter 32, verses 27 to 29

 
Faith–the greatest enemy of reason
Reason
How very true John. It could equally well be said that faith – the holding of beliefs without supporting evidence, or even contrary to the evidence – is the greatest enemy of reason.
Moses has received the Ten Commandments from God, one of which was "Thou shalt not kill". He came down from Mount Sinai to find the Israelites worshiping the golden calf.
And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sward by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.
Moses received a commandment from God stating that killing was against God's law; Moses immediately set the Israelites to killing each other indiscriminantly! Are we to take it from this that it's OK to ignore God's commandments, and to kill and to order other people to kill, so long as you believe that is what God really wants?

Try to imagine what a group of people would do if they were told to "go out and kill your brother, companion, and neighbour". Many would think, "if I have to kill people then I will kill people I don't like"; so there would be a purge of the more unpopular people.

One would hope that in any real-life situation where the leader of a group gave such an order the reaction would be an immeadiate rebelian against the leader, but one can imagine if there was a Jonestown-like blind following of what was perceived as a semi-divine leader people might obay the order. Were the followers of Moses similar to the Jonestown group?

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Ten Commandments and rape

There are three versions of the Ten Commandments in the Bible, two of them are very similar, Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, the third version, in Exodus 34:12-26, is radically different. (See rational Wiki.) It seems odd that God couldn't pass on a consistent set of rules, don't you think?

Rape of a woman

It is telling that there is nothing in any of the sets of the ten commandments against the rape of a woman. In fact, from Genesis 19 (the story of the two angels who Lot protected from the Sodomites) one could get the impression that women have no rights at all, and can be raped at any time that it may suit whichever male rules their lives. In Genesis 19, Lot pleads with the Sodomites to not molest his guests (male angels), and offers his virgin daughters to be raped in the place of Lot's guests. Genesis 19:8:
"Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof."
How could this be justified under any set of rational and consistent ethics? Can it be that those who believe that the Bible sets out the rules under which we should live also believe that women should be treated as the property of men and may be handed over to other men to be raped at will?

Rape of virgin girls seems to be justified in the story of Moses and the Midianites too.

The Ten Commandments say nothing about humane treatment of animals or our fellow man (or woman). They say nothing against slavery.

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Kill anyone who tries to convert you; Deuteronomy 13:6-10

Most non-Muslims are disgusted when they hear that Islam calls for the death of anyone who turns away from Islam; here we see that Christianity is no better.
"If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."
Would anyone in the twenty-first century, other than a religious fanatic, claim that it is ethical to kill someone who tries to convert someone to another religion?
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Utterly destroy them; Deuteronomy 20:10-17

God presses for the total annihilation of whole peoples if they refuse to surrender and pay tribute:
"When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.
And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:
And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.
Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee."
Where is there any morality in this? We can force people to pay tribute to us or kill them all, so long as we believe it is sanctioned by God?
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If your son is rebellious, have him stoned to death; Deuteronomy 21:13-21

What sane person would hold that stoning to death is the correct way to handle a rebellious son? The Bible does.
"If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear."
How many rebelious sons have become good adults? Not many would live long enough if fathers behaved as this passage instructs them to.

There are two other places in the Bible that also suggest killing rebelious sons: Exodus 21:15 and Leviticus 20:9.

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Numbers, Chapter 31, verses 15 to 18

Moses is talking to the captains of Israel after the army had destroyed Midian.
"Have you allowed all the women to live?" he asked them. "They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the Lord in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the Lord's people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man."
This is genocide of the most bloodthirsty kind. If it happened today Moses would be tried in an international court and would, correctly, be jailed for years.

Are we supposed to believe that it was acceptable because Moses thought he was doing God's work? (How many war crimes have been committed by people who claimed to be doing God's work?)

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Joshua, Chapter 6, verses 15 to 21

Joshua and the army of Israel are outside the walls of Jericho.
And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city. And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are there-in, to the Lord: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that were sent. And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord. So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.
So, what was the crime of the people of Jericho that justified the destruction of their city and the slaughter of every man, woman and child? They were in the way. The people of Israel wanted their land, they had been promised it by 'the Lord'.

Three of the ten commandments were, "Thou shalt not steal", "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house ... nor any thing that is thy neighbour's". But here are the 'people of the Lord' stealing the land of the people of Jericho and killing the people of Jericho, because they wanted their land, they coveted their land. We are to believe that they had some God-given right to break the commandments (and to commit these crimes against any reasonable system of ethics), and that this God-given right somehow justified ignoring the commandments.

Whether the wall miraculously fell down flat, or indeed, whether the army of Israel ever laid siege to Jericho, is not the point here. The point is that whoever wrote the Book of Joshua believed that genocide, mass murder, was quite acceptable, so long as it was thought to be sanctioned by God.

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Is God omnipotent, or is he not?

(And is it right to punish children for the sins of their ancestors?)

Genesis:1:1 "In the beginning God created heaven and the earth."

Genesis tells us that there was nothing before God created the Universe. There are at least two implications here: the first is that he was omnipotent (having unlimited power and authority), the second is that there were no other gods (unless they were created by God).

And then in Exodus (20:3 to 20:5):

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me."
Here we see an entirely different picture. The god of the Israelites is jealous of other gods. How can that be? Genesis would have us believe that God created everything, that he was omnipotent; if there were other gods they must have been created by God. Surely there can only be one omnipotent god; to have more than one is unimaginable. Where did these other gods come from? If God created them why would he be jealous of them?

On the primary subject of this page, whether the Bible can tell us how to live ethically, under what ethical justification could "the children unto the third and fourth generation" be held accountable for the crimes of the father? It is quite immoral to punish children for crimes that they are innocent of; the crimes of their ancestors.

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Slavery, stoning: Exodus 21

The Old Testament not only allows slavery, but provides rules for the treatment of slaves. For example, see Exodus 21: 2 to 4:
"If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.
If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself."
The next verses show that, should the man not want to go free at the cost of losing his wife and children, he has the option of remaining a slave "for ever". Now there is an act of kindness!

And note that these laws apply to Hebrew slaves. One supposes that non-Hebrew slaves could not expect the same kindness and consideration.

Exodus 21 is a juicy chapter, not only in the rules it gives regarding slavery, but in a number of other barbaric laws:

  • "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."
  • "And he that curseth [or smiteth] his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death."
  • "If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit."
One can see that stoning a man or woman to death, while being terribly barbaric, could have some deterrence value. But how could stoning an ox to death deter other oxen from goring anyone?
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Human sacrifice: Judges 11:30-39

Much is made by those who like to repeat the Bible story about how the Christian God first ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son to God; but stopped Abraham at the last minute. (Geneis 22) Modern Christians like this story because it shows how God is merciful.

There is another similar story: Judges 11:30-39, in which God is quite content to allow Jephthah to sacrifice his beloved only child, this time a daughter, by burning her. What happened to God's mercy? You are not likely to hear this story in a modern church.


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New Testament

Moral teachings of Jesus

The camel and the needle

Matthew:19:24: "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
Mark:10:25: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
Luke:18:25: For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."

The fact that the same statement was attributed to Jesus in three of the Gospels would seem to sugest that it should be taken seriously by Christians. One wonders why it is ignored by so many?


Love your enemies

Matthew:5:44: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;"
Luke:6:27: But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,"
Yet what was the response of that great Christian nation the USA to the killing of three thousand in New York and Washington on 2001/09/11? To kill thousands of Afghans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
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Love thy neighbour
Luke, 10:26 to 10:36

"He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?"

Samaritans and Hebrews, it should be remembered, were not generally on good terms.

The graph below is from OECD year 2000 figures - the aid is shown as a percentage of Gross National Product (y axis, on the left of the graph);

International aid

Many predominantly Christian nations (probably the USA would have the largest percentage of people who claim to take Chrisianity seriously) do not do well in providing aid to those less fortunate than themselves. They spend far more on weapons and wars of invasion than on 'loving their neighbours'.


Crumbs to dogs?
Matthew 15:22-28

"And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour."
Jesus compared the Canaanite woman and her sick daughter to dogs and at first refused to help them. How does this fit in with his love thy neighbour teaching? Some people qualify as our neighbours, others do not?
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One god, or more?

Two gods?

The god of the Old Testament - vindictive, blood-thirsty, unforgiving, focused only on the Israelites - is not the same as the god of Jesus - forgiving, peaceful, loving, and available to all.

Many gods?

The Bible is contradictory on the point of whether the God of Christianity was the only god. The Old Testament certainly talks of other gods – Ex:20:5: "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God" – but the New Testament gives the impression that the Christian God is all there is. (The Old Testament is itself inconsistent on the subject.)

Three gods?

Then, of course, there is the ambiguity around 'the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit': one god, or three?

The same old god, or a new one?

It seems that the writers of the New Testament tried to link Jesus with the Old Testament to try to convince people that he was the promised Messiah and give him more legitimacy. Matthew in Chapter 1 tells us that Joseph was descended from King David. Is this because the Messiah promised in the Old Testament belonged to 'the house of David'? But then, of course, we are told that Joseph was not the father of Jesus, so that argument lacks any basis.

It's a pity that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament didn't suggest an entirely new god, that might have led to less blood letting in the name of God in the millenia that followed.

The god of Jesus, or another?

It also should be said here that while the god of Jesus was forgiving, peaceful and loving, this is plainly not the god that later 'Christians' were writing about when they further developed the Hell concept; where people who did not believe in their god would be tortured for all eternity.

In fact it seems that by developing the Hell concept, stressing the importance of sin and punishment – and punishment of a cruelty all but unimaginable – the 'Christians' that followed Jesus corrupted Jesus' message, and that the resultant 'Christianity' would hardly be recognisable to Jesus.

Idolatry? Many minor gods?

This section would not be complete is I didn't mention the habit of some Christian sects of praying to saints represented by statues. Has this practice not made those saints into minor gods? Have the saints' statues not become idols?
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Environment

The word environment does not occur in the Bible; the concept of environmentalism was unknown to the writers of the Bible. In the tweny-first century, when our environment is suffering so much damage, if our only moral guide was the Bible we would not need to bother to do anything to protect our planet from our excesses.

Genesis, 1:28

"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
The impression given is that everything in the world is there for Man's use ('subdue it'); no need to protect it and look after it.
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Son of David

There are many references to Jesus as the Son of David in the New Testament (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Matthew and Luke both give genealogies suggesting that Joseph, the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus, was descended from King David. (Matthew 1: 1 to 16, Luke 3: 23 to 38. The genealogies differ substantially.)

Yet we are told that Joseph was not the father of Jesus, Jesus was supposedly born to a virgin. It seems that the authors of the New Testament wanted to have their cake and eat it too.

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Judas

The Judas story presents us with several problems.

We are told that it was necessary for Jesus to die on the cross to atone for the sins of Man (although the logic in that, if any, would be worth another discussion). If we accept that it was necessary for Jesus to be crucified then how was Judas in the wrong by taking some part in this? It seems that he was simply helping to fulfil God's grand plan.

Another problem is in what, exactly, did Judas do? We are told that he betrayed Jesus for a handful of silver. How did Judas betray Jesus? The authorities must have been aware of where Jesus was; Jesus was making no secret of his presence in Jerusalem. Did Judas tell the authorities something about Jesus that they didn't already know? If so, what was it? The Bible doesn't pass it on to us. Jesus was making no secret of his belief that he was the Son of God or any other of his ideas; what could Judas have told the authorities that they couldn't have found out for themselves?

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Conclusion

My aim in writing this page is to show that the Bible gives no ethical guide on which we can base our lives. Not only is it hopelessly inconsistent and nonsensical in places, it describes terrible crimes that seem to have been thought justified by the Bible's authors on the grounds of a supposed racial superiority; the Israelites could justify any crime against others because they believed themselves to be the chosen of God. It goes beyond that, in Exodus Chapter 32, Moses even justifies a random slaughter of three thousand of his own people to 'consecrate them to the Lord'.

There are many actions of the people in the Bible that no open-minded philosopher, or reasonable and intelligent person, would accept as ethically correct. If we in this world are to lift ourselves above falsely justified crimes we should drop the Bible as a collection of stories and myths from a primative nomadic tribe that, like so many nomadic tribes through history, stole a land from peaceful and settled people; and a set of inconsistant and unjustifiable laws that has been well and truly left behind by modern ethical philosophy.

The authors of the New Testament and the fathers of the Church, by developing the Hell concept and stressing the importance of sin and punishment, corrupted Jesus' message, and the resultant 'Christianity' would hardly be recognisable to Jesus.






Links

About.com:Agnosticism/Atheism

Bible passages that appear immoral today, from Religious Tolerance, an interesting and unusual site.

Top 10 bizarre biblical tales; with some interesting and amusing interpretation

Top 20 Evil Bible Stories

The Next Time Someone Uses the Bible to Say Homosexuality is a Sin, Show The This; some interesting Bible bits






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Index

Camel and needle
Conclusion
Crumbs to dogs?
Environment
Human sacrifice
Joshua and Jericho
Judas
Kill anyone who tries to convert you?
If your son is rebellious, have him stoned to death
Links
Love thy neighbour
Love your enemies
Moral teachings of Jesus
Moses and the Midianites
New Testament
Old Testament/Torah
Omnipotent or not?
One god, or more?
Punish children for the sins of their ancestors?
Son of David
Slavery, stoning
Ten Commandments and rape
Thou shalt not kill
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Utterly destroy them