Thursday, August 06, 2009

Anti-discrimination laws

Religions have long been in the lead to fight against discrimination.

The Bible was one of the first documents to try to limit discrimination. In fact, discrimination was limited only to people in the following categories :-

Leviticus 21
The LORD said to Moses, "Say to Aaron: 'For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is hunchbacked or dwarfed, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles.

There was to be no discrimination against other people, well, against other men at least.

38 Comments:

Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I made that today's Bible reading on my Facebook page. I wonder if any of my Christian friends will respond.

5:20 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Steven, what do you think is the rationale for the above?

4:29 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

God doesn't like short people or people with bad eyesight being priests.

Short people are not perfect. God likes perfect people, and hunchbacks do not fit his definition of almost Aryan purity.

4:35 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

*Sigh*

Just a few verses earlier, it says that priests "must not shave their heads or shave off the edges of their beards or cut their bodies". So the section is obviously about something else/more than "God preferring perfect people" or whatever you think it says.

I suggest you read the context, then think through the most positive interpretation you might give to this passage. That will help you, at the very least, to come up with a substantive response, unlike your comment above.

4:44 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Yes, happy positive things like verse 9. "If a priest's daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire"

4:47 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

God likes beards.

God does not like short people or short-sighted people.

Seems pretty clear to me, despite your hints that there is something other than arbitrary prejudice at work, if only people would think about it.

Sorry, but if you have books written by Iron Age barbarians, you are going to get some weird stuff in there.

Which I intend to point out, until people realise that Iron Age culture is not the most wonderful set of rules that humankind has ever come up with.

Next you will be telling me those people wanted me to cut off a bit of my penis!

4:48 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

MIKE
Yes, happy positive things like verse 9. "If a priest's daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire"

CARR
This god just likes killing people. It is like a disease with him.

I give thanks every day that I do not hold this book up to people and tell them it is a moral code for mankind.

Can you imagine what those people must have done to themselves to get their minds in such a state as actually to think that that horrible book is the Word of God?

I can but shudder and resolve never to become religious, no matter what the circumstances.

4:52 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

I am happy to admit that I don't know what exactly is going on with the specific prohibitions here. But there are clearly broader principles at work - can't you see there's a common theme here (and in the surrounding chapters) about who can be a priest, and therefore about how God relates to man? (That's a rhetorical question.)

"I can but shudder and resolve never to become religious, no matter what the circumstances." - Well, at least you're honest about having a closed mind!

2:18 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

There are broader principles.

Short people or people with defects were considered impure, almost Untermenschen, by the people who wrote the Bible.

Thank goodness I am closed to the idea that short people are less suited to be priests in the eyes of God than taller people.

3:01 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"and therefore about how God relates to man?"

Ok, we are born into this world imperfect, too flawed to be in the presence of God. Who's responsible for that?

3:59 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Steven: I think you misunderstand what a priest was for in the Old Testament.

Mike: Good question. The Bible's answer is that we are trapped by our own intrinsic rebelliousness towards God...it's one of the paradoxes of the human condition. Pascal is very interesting on this.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

If it's intrinsic, then it's not our fault.

7:49 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Ok, let's step back a bit. Say it wasn't intrinsic. How would that change things?

8:07 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Eliminate original sin and Christ died for nothing.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

PCRAIG
I think you misunderstand what a priest was for in the Old Testament.

CARR
To be a representative of the Aryan race and so not have any physical defects ,like being short, or being short-sighted?

8:28 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Mike: No, because it is clear that people are sinful, even if you leave aside the "intrinsic" element. That is clear from our experience, and expressed in the first few chapters of Paul's letter to the Romans.

Steven: It seems to me that you are trying to disguise your ignorance with sarcasm.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

pcraig, people are imperfect, that does not have to equate to sinful. My biggest beef with Christianity, at least typical evangelical Christianity, is that it is a bullying system. See how sinful you are? See how worthless you are? You're only worth something if Jesus cleanses you. It still baffles me that I actually thought that way for 20 years.

We see people from all cultures who do their best to be good people with their imperfections, with or without Jesus.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

So I am ignorant of why a short person cannot be a priest in the eyes of God?

Or a person with poor eyesight?

I have suggested that it is because God wants physically perfect members of the Aryan race to be priests.

Is this false?

Does God want physically perfect members of the Jewish race to be priests?

And why should prostitutes be burned to death if they bring shame on their father?

Is that like honour killings?

1:02 PM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Mike: But that's exactly the point. We are imperfect because we are sinful. It's not about convincing people that they are worse than they are - it's about explaining what we see day to day in either our own experience or on the news. (When I said that's what Pascal is about, I meant it - he's very good at pointing out the contradictions of the human condition.) And as to the idea that people are worthless, that is miles away from what the Bible teaches - people are made in the image of God. That's what makes our sin all the more significant.

Steven: As I said, I don't know how all these things fit together, but am willing to trust God's character for other reasons.

But I did asked what a priest is for in the Old Testament, and you still have not provided an answer. Also, you should be asking those questions in the past tense. It makes a big difference that God related to Israel in a different way to how he relates to people now.

The first rule of debate is to understand what is being said before you try to respond to it.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Yes, pcraig, I know the traditional Christian position, but depravity is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps worthless was the wrong word, useless would be more appropriate, since any good we do without Christ counts for nothing.

3:07 PM  
Blogger pcraig said...

"depravity is in the eye of the beholder" - Really? That sounds pretty close to moral relativism. You yourself said in an earlier comment that people are "imperfect".

"useless would be more appropriate, since any good we do without Christ counts for nothing" - I don't know where you get this from.

2:40 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Imperfection is not depravity, what imperfection has to do with moral relativism I have no idea.

In regards to people being useless or worthless without God, do I really need to trot out all the Bible verses in support of that position? You must be an Arminian or a really soft Calvinist.

5:27 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Well, I think you are mistaking what "depravity" means. Total depravity - as in the classic Calvinist T in TULIP - is about every part of our lives, and the world, being tainted by sin. It doesn't mean everything is zero, worthless, like garbage. People are made in the image of God, but that image has been spoiled - it's a very different thing to say that therefore people are "worthless".

(The point about relativism was that as soon as you say "x is in the eye of the beholder", you are undermining the objective reality of x. So in your comment you seem to be saying that "depravity" is entirely subjective.)

6:07 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Yes, that is entirely what I am saying. Morality, even Christian morality, is relative.

6:22 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Oh. That seems a little out of sync with your comments above - if morality is subjective then how can you make any kind of moral judgements about anything, such as the original post?

6:54 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

The same way anybody does, based on our current moral beliefs. What are these beliefs based on? That's a question that could be answered differently each time it's asked.

11:16 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Well, that subjective. Even if they don't know what they're based on, I think the vast majority of people would disagree with you that morality is subjective...if one thinks that right and wrong is just a matter of cultural/social foible, one has no grounds to make any moral judgements.

2:35 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

pcraig, what are your morals based on?

4:03 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

What are Pcraig's morals based on?

A book which says prostitutes should be burned if they are the daughter of a priest.

Perhaps PCraig's morals are based on our Judeo-Christian heritage, except for Christians some bits are put firmly in the Judeo part of their Judeo-Christian heritage.

4:21 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I assumed that, Steven. The answer I usually get is God or the Bible. If the answer is The Bible then who is interpreting it correctly since there is so much disagreement? If the answer is God then how are we to know these morals? If it is written on our hearts as the new testament would have us believe, then again, why so much variation and why does my heart tell me something different than anothers?

One possible Christian answer is that we are fallen and sinful and this corrupts our ability to discern. If this is so, we still have the same dilemma. If we are fallen and sinful and cannot discern properly, even with an indwelling holy spirit, then how do we know what is moral and how can we judge?

4:30 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

My point on the objectivity of morality is separate from what those morals actually are. William Lane Craig's articles on the moral argument are very clear, I recommend them.

But forgive me, that did take the conversation off-topic.

Steven: You are confusing the descriptive with the prescriptive. There is no expectation that such Old Testament rules should apply today (have a look at Matthew 19:1-9 for an example of Jesus's approach to people looking to apply things without any discrimination whatsoever).

Mike: The Bible says we should follow our conscience, but we should also try to align our conscience with God's will. God's will is pretty clear from the Bible - if it's complicated, it's possible to start from first principles, like what Jesus said are the two most important commandments. The rest tends to roll out from there.

(By the way, I find it difficult to believe that there are that many different beliefs that are *justifiable*, either about what the Bible says or about what is right and wrong. There might be all sorts of beliefs about lizards ruling the earth but most of us are pretty clear that they're nonsense - I think that applies to the Bible. The varied beliefs tend to be more about the authority of the Bible, not about its meaning.)

7:09 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

*justifiable*

That is exactly my point. Who determines what is justifiable?

Do you need to believe scripture is inerrant to be a real Christian? Are universalists real Christians?

These are all questions that no one can answer with certainty because they have not died and met their maker or lack thereof.

11:15 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

"Who determines what is justifiable?" - That question applies to every type of knowledge, not just the Bible. Everyone defaults to a particular standard when it comes to what to believe and who to trust. It seems pretty clear that people who take the time to read the Bible and understand it agree on what the important stuff is.

"Do you need to believe scripture is inerrant to be a real Christian?" - It seems to me that you can believe the basics about Jesus and the gospel without believing everything in the Bible. (Though I personally think that a form of Biblical inerrancy is a logical conclusion from believing in Jesus.)

"Are universalists real Christians?" - It seems to me that Jesus would disagree with everything that clearly differentiates universalism from other belief systems, so I doubt it.

5:05 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Thanks, I just wanted a clearer understanding of some of your theology.

Universalists, of course, would disagree with you. ;-)

We are way off topic now.

Happy Friday, all!

5:12 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

PS. "These are all questions that no one can answer with certainty because they have not died and met their maker or lack thereof"

We can all lack certainty about pretty much everything. If you are looking for rock-solid certainty about things, you will be disappointed most of the time.

5:16 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I'm not looking for rock solid certainty, just campaigning against it.

5:19 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Ah, ok. Good stuff. Just make sure you don't fall into the trap of thinking you can't believe anything you are uncertain about: "The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid" - Chesterton

6:43 AM  
Blogger Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

No worries. I'm a fundamentalist solipsist so you are all in my head anyway. ;-)

6:47 AM  

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