God - the Original Fascist

Part 2: The Repressive Social Order of the Bible

Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us

Editor’s Note: This series of articles was submitted by a reader who was inspired by Bob Avakian’s writings and talks on religion and, further provoked by discussions and arguments with friends about the Bible, engaged in a systematic study of the first five books of the Bible. These books, which are known as the “Mosaic Books” (and which contain such crucial passages as that outlining the Ten Commandments), lay out the foundation for some of the Bible’s most important themes. After having read these five Mosaic books of the Bible, the reader was struck even more deeply by how profoundly the essence of the Bible’s message has been distorted and hidden.

A series in four parts, submitted by A. Brooks, a reader of Revolution newspaper

The Bible and the Oppression of Women

Along with the biblical myth of creation, also to be found early on in the story of Genesis is the first mention of a theme that is repeated quite frequently throughout the Mosaic books: the oppression and inferiority of women. Even many of those who have read very little, if any, of the Bible are aware of the story of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were supposedly the first human beings that God created. While Adam was created from the dust of the earth, Eve was merely created from Adam’s rib, thus consigning woman in essence to the status of an appendage of man. God forbids Adam and Eve from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. Eve then convinces Adam to eat the fruit anyway, and God becomes enraged upon discovering this. So how does God react? By saying to Eve, “I will make most severe your pangs in childbearing. In pain shall you bear children, yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3)

From this passage, we are expected to accept two notions that reinforce the suffering and subordination of woman: First, that childbearing, rather than being viewed as an act that leads to joyousness, actually represents a punishment bestowed upon woman by God. And secondly, that men should rule over women. As mentioned, the latter in particular is a theme returned to multiple times throughout the first five books of the Bible. The women of the Mosaic books are kept as concubines (sex slaves), bartered and controlled as possessions, and subject to the most horrific of abuses. Abraham, for instance, is one of the most famous Biblical figures. When Sarai, wife of Abraham (who is originally called “Abram” and then later renamed), proves unable to conceive, how is the situation resolved? Well, according to Genesis 16, it is resolved when Abraham sleeps with a concubine instead: “So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took her maid—Hagar the Egyptian—and gave her to her husband Abram as a concubine.”

Later, in Leviticus 12, it is said that after a woman gives birth to a male, she shall remain in “blood purification” for thirty-three days, a period of time during which she must be isolated from all living things. However, if a woman gives birth to a female,she must remain in an isolated state for double that time—sixty-six days. What a statement to make about the value of women in society—both that they must remain isolated in a state of “uncleanliness” following the act of childbirth, and also that their period of “uncleanliness” is double if they gave birth to a girl rather than a boy!

Further on in Leviticus, the horrors for women continue. For instance, it is clearly stated that “When the daughter of a priest defiles herself through harlotry, it is her father whom she defiles; she shall be put to fire.” (Leviticus 21) Here we see not only the horrifying consequence for a woman who engages in prostitution, but also the articulation of the notion that daughters are nothing more than an extension of their father’s property.

Meanwhile, passages in Deuteronomy outline the “ideal” procedure for how to capture women as prizes of war:

“When you take the field against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your power and you take some of them captive and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her and would take her to wife, you shall bring her into your house and she shall trim her hair, pare her nails, and discard her captive’s garb. She shall spend a month’s time in your house lamenting her father and mother, after that you may come to possess her and she shall be your wife.” (Deuteronomy 21)

Where to even begin with the horrors of the above passage?! For one, the reader will no doubt immediately notice that it is apparently of no consequence whether the woman in question wishes to become sexually involved with the man! Rather, the woman is immediately declared a possession of the man who wishes to capture her, and she has no choice but to surrender to him.

The absolute surrender of woman to man laid out in the Bible is driven home in an even more powerful and explicit manner a few passages later: “If a man comes upon a virgin and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are discovered, the man who lay with her shall pay the girl’s father fifty [shekhels of] silver, and she shall be his wife.” (Deuteronomy 22) Again, it is clear that the choice of a woman does not enter into the equation anywhere—she is powerless! If a man “seizes”—i.e. rapes—her, she not only can but must become the property of the very man who raped her, so long as he can provide monetary compensation. And the reader will again notice that the woman is being treated as nothing more than an extension of her father’s property—monetary compensation is paid because a father’s property—not a human being—was violated.

In this same book of the Bible, one finds that if a man accuses his wife of not being a virgin prior to their marriage, the parents of the girl are supposed to produce a bloody bed sheet that proves she was, in fact, a virgin. “But if the charge proves true, the girl was found not to have been a virgin, then the girl shall be brought out to the entrance of her father’s house, and the men of her town shall stone her to death.” (Deuteronomy 22) Perhaps it is worth taking a moment to pause and reflect on what kind of statement it makes if a woman accused of not being a virgin prior to marriage—i.e., accused of not being her husband’s complete sexual property—must be faced with either the humiliation of producing a bloody bedsheet or be brutally stoned to death.

I could go on and on quoting passages from the Bible that demonstrate in no uncertain terms that in every facet of life and society, women were expected to completely surrender to the will of their husbands and to be subordinate to men in general. In the interests of conserving space and time, however, it likely suffices to simply consider this: What would the implications be if the principles discussed thus far were taken and applied literally to a society?

The Bible and Slavery

Ah yes, of all the wonderful values extolled in the Mosaic books, perhaps none is more admirable than the notion of one human being owning another. Indeed, slavery is mentioned throughout each of the five Mosaic books of the Bible. Some passages mention the institution in a way that simply makes it clear that the practice is viewed as inevitable and a natural part of the social order of the times, while -others go a step further and actually outline the “proper” procedures by which one human being should “possess” another. In the first category, we find numerous examples taken straight from the Bible. Perhaps most noteworthy is the reference to slavery found in the Ten Commandments. The tenth and final Commandment instructs that God’s people: “Shall not covet their neighbor’s house, wife, male or female slave, ox or ass, or anything else.” (Exodus 20) When this is pointed out to many religious persons, their response is that this part of the Tenth Commandment does not actually condone slavery; it merely mentions its existence. This argument is severely lacking in logic. In fact, it is plain as day that the Bible is implying that there is nothing wrong with slavery itself—rather, people should simply stick to their own slaves and not covet those “belonging” to others!

If “God” were actually trying to say that slavery as a whole should not exist, why would He give an instruction that is clearly designed to protect the “human property” of others? Furthermore, to use an analogy, suppose that in present society someone were to devise a law that said: “Thou shalt not commit murder on a Tuesday.” Would anyone actually try to defend this law by saying, “Well, this law isn’t saying that murder is OK, it just says that murdering on a TUESDAY is not OK”? Of course not. By specifying that committing murder on a Tuesday is immoral, the law would clearly be implying that murdering someone on any other day was just fine—just as saying that people should not “covet” other people’s slaves clearly implies acceptance of slavery and merely rejects coveting the “property” of others.

Slavery is also mentioned in Genesis 12 in relation to Abram (again, he who was later renamed Abraham): “Because of her [Sarai, Abram’s wife], it went well with Abram; [upon entering Egypt], he acquired sheep, oxen, asses, male and female slaves, she-asses, and camels.” Notice that acquiring slaves is viewed as a sign of when things “went well.”

Or how about Genesis 17, when God tells Abraham: “As for the homeborn slave and the one bought from an outsider who is not your offspring, they must be circumcised, homeborn, and purchased alike.” Or how about Genesis 32, when Jacob sends a message ahead to his brother Esau: “I stayed with Laban and remained until now. I have acquired cattle, asses, and male and female slaves.”

Still not convinced that the Bible is chock full of references to slavery—references that make clear that the Bible approves of slavery? How about this fine passage from Exodus, which instructs that, “When a man strikes a slave, male or female, with a rod, and he dies there and then, he must be avenged. But if he survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, since he is the other’s property.” (Exodus 21) Here, the Bible goes one step beyond the part of the Ten Commandments where slavery is merely “mentioned”: Now slaves are clearly identified as “human property”—which, we can only conclude, is just fine with God. And this passage also makes clear that beating slaves within inches of their life is acceptable as long as they are not literally killed.

References to slavery hardly decrease as one progresses through the five Mosaic books. In fact, if anything, these references become more explicit. In Leviticus 25, God instructs his “chosen people” that “Such male and female slaves as you have—it is from the nations round about you that you may acquire male and female slaves... such you may treat as slaves.” There it is, plain as day—enslaving other peoples is OK in the eyes of God, according to the Bible. And as a later passage in Deuteronomy makes evident, the Biblical God does not merely sanction the enslavement of people in the nations “round about you,” but rather is perfectly willing to accept the enslavement of his own chosen people as well: “If a fellow Hebrew, man or woman, is sold to you, he shall serve for six years, and in the seventh year, you shall set him free.” (Deuteronomy 15)

Again, as with instances where the Bible sanctions the oppression of women, there are many more that could be found and discussed, just in the first five, Mosaic books of the Bible. But I feel that those referenced so far are more than enough to make all of us shudder at the implications of applying this “core principle” of the Bible literally.

The Bible and the Death Penalty

Many good-hearted religious folks point to passages such as the Commandment that reads, “Thou shalt not kill” to argue that the practice of state-sanctioned executions is ungodly. Unfortunately, while the death penalty in this society is indeed a great horror, it is not “ungodly.” The Holy Bible is full of instances where God commands that people be put to death. In some passages, God decrees that a specific transgression occurring in the Bible be dealt with by executing the offender, while in still other places he merely articulates that in any instance where a specific act is committed, the offender shall be put to death.

Passages in Exodus 21 outline a variety of crimes for which offenders shall be executed:

“He who fatally strikes a man shall be put to death.”

“He who strikes his father or mother shall be put to death.”

“He who kidnaps a man shall be put to death.”

“He who insults his father or mother shall be put to death.”

In particular, it is worth examining the last of these “crimes.” Think about that law for a moment: “He who insults his father or mother shall be put to death.” How many of us in society—even those who are extremely close to our immediate families—have not at one time or another in our lives done something that could be considered insulting to our parents? The Bible would have us believe that any of us who are guilty of such an act should be put to death!! Many folks may be surprised to find that such a horrific law could be stated in the Bible; to be honest, I was pretty blown away myself! But perhaps it is not surprising that passages like this are not well advertised: Evangelical Chris-tians are not anxious to point out that their beloved scriptures would call for executing those who merely insult their mothers or fathers, because it would make the lunacy of following the Bible literally a lot more readily apparent!

In the event that anyone missed the point of the passage in Exodus 21, God is kind enough to repeat it several times throughout the Bible, including in Leviti-cus, where it is plainly stated: “If anyone insults his father or mother, he shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 20) This principle is then spelled out further in Deuteronomy, in a passage that articulates the notion that “If a man has a wayward and defiant son, who does not heed his father or mother and does not obey him even after they discipline him, his mother and father shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his community. They shall say to the elders of the town, ‘This son of ours is disloyal and defiant. He does not heed us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Thereupon the men of his town shall stone him to death.” (Deuteronomy 21)

Working on the Sabbath—a day which God commanded be set aside as a day of rest and worship to Himself—is also a crime for which the Bible advocates a penalty of death. In Exodus, this is made clear when God says: “Nevertheless, you must keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between you and me throughout the ages. He who profanes it shall be put to death.. Whoever does work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.” (Exodus 31) Like the Commandment concerning the execution of defiant children, God is nice enough to alleviate any confusion by repeating throughout the Mosaic books that those who work on the Sabbath shall be put to death, including in a passage further on in Exodus: “Whoever does work on it [the Sabbath] shall be put to death.” (Exodus 35)

That death to those who work on the Sabbath is designed as a law and not merely an idea is made clear in Numbers: “Once, when the Israelites were in the wilderness, they came upon a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him as he was gathering wood brought him before Moses, Aaron, and the whole community. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘This man shall be put to death: the whole community shall pelt him with stones outside the camp.’ So the whole community took him outside the camp and stoned him to death—as the Lord had commanded Moses.” (Numbers 15)

Another crime for which the death penalty is advocated is blasphemy. As will be discussed at greater length in the next part of this series, it is made plain throughout the Mosaic books that God will show no mercy or patience to those who deviate from following him absolutely. For now, it will suffice to mention just a few examples of this. In Leviticus, the Bible describes an occurrence where, “The son of a half-Israelite woman had blasphemed.” (Leviticus 24) The penalty for this blaspheming was brutal: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands upon his head, and let the whole community stone him.’” (Leviticus 24)

Immediately after this passage, it is made clear that this instance is to serve as an example of the proper ways that blasphemers are supposed to be dealt with in all cases: “And to the Israelite woman, speak thus: Anyone who blasphemes God shall bear his guilt; if he also pronounces the name Lord, he shall be put to death. The whole community shall stone him.” (Leviticus 24) Again, it is worth reflecting on the implications of this Commandment from God: How many of us in society—religious or otherwise—have not at some point uttered an expression such as “Oh my God!”, or “God damn it!”? According to the Bible, that is blasphemy—“taking the Lord’s name in vain”—and is grounds for the death penalty!

One particular form of blasphemy for which God doles out particularly merciless punishment is the worship of other supernatural Gods or spirits. In Leviticus, we find that “A man or a woman who has a familiar ghost or spirit shall be put to death; they shall be pelted with stones.” (Leviticus 20) In Deuteronomy, Moses continues with this theme, reminding the Israelites: “Revere only the Lord your God and worship Him alone, and swear only by His name. Do not follow other Gods. For the Lord your God is an impassioned God, lest the anger of the Lord your God blaze forth against you and He wipe you off the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 6)

The theory of these passages is put into brutal practice in many instances in the first five books of the Bible, including in a memorable passage in Exodus: Moses returns from Mount Sinai to find that many of the Israelites have built a golden calf and are worshipping it. Upon returning to the Israelites and observing the calf, Moses is consumed with rage and responds by grinding the calf into dust, and then making the Israelites drink it. (Exodus 32) But Moses didn’t quite stop there. He then “stood up in the gate of the camp and said, ‘Whoever is for the Lord come here!’ And all the Levites [descendants of Levi] rallied to him. He said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, each of you put your sword on thigh, go back and forth from gate to camp, slay brother, neighbor, and kin.’ The Levites did as Moses commanded, and three thousand fell that day.” (Exodus 32)

Adultery is still another crime that the Bible deems punishable by death. Certainly it is the case that, even in a better society than the one we live in, the emotional harm that one human being can do to another by sleeping around on them would perhaps frequently justify adultery being labeled as an “immoral” act. (However, even if this is generally true, it has different meaning under different circumstances: For example, if a woman develops a relationship with someone other than her husband because the husband is abusive, that is very different from a married man who sleeps around as a means of acquiring sexual “conquests.”) And whatever emotional pain might result from adultery, it certainly seems reasonable to say that adultery is not a “crime” for which offenders should be punished by law, much less executed!! However, the ultimate penalty of death is indeed prescribed throughout the Mosaic books for those who commit adultery. In Leviticus, we find the decree that, “If a man commits adultery, the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 20) In Deuteronomy, this point is repeated when Moses, who is supposedly articulating the word of God, says, “If a man is found lying with another man’s wife, both of them—both the man and the woman with whom he lay—shall die.” (Deuteronomy 22)

Besides the horror involved in calling for adulterers to be executed, the sheer hypocrisy of the Bible must also be pointed out here: Many of the key figures of the very same Bible that calls for the death penalty to be meted out to those who commit adultery themselves have more than one wife!! As early as Genesis, we find reference to Lamech, who “took to himself two wives” (Genesis 4). Earlier in this series it was noted that Abram (later renamed Abraham) was married to Sarai, but because Sarai could not conceive, Abraham was “forced” to lay with Hagar, a concubine offered to him by his wife. And here we see an instance of “like grandfather, like grandson”: Abraham’s grandson and Isaac’s son was named Jacob, who took to himself two wives—Rachel and Leah. Yet, for some reason, all of these men were able to escape the penalty of death that was supposed to await all adulterers.

While there are several other “crimes” for which the death penalty is advocated, there is one that, in light of recent current events, particularly merits discussion here. This “crime,” as the Bible deems it, is homosexuality. With fundamental rights for gay people in this country currently at stake, it is necessary to understand important historical roots for the attacks on these rights. For this reason, scriptural commentary on homosexuality perhaps deserves its own section here.

The Bible and Homosexuality

In 1998, Matthew Shepard—a gay man in Wyoming—was kidnapped by a couple of anti-gay thugs, tied to a fencepost, and beaten to death. This unspeakable atrocity immediately opened eyes across the nation to the persecution—often violent—that is constantly visited upon homosexuals in this society. One of the most enduring and horrifying images in the aftermath of Shepard’s murder was that, at his funeral, anti-gay religious leaders and also several lay persons held signs with cruel and vicious slogans, such as “God hates fags.” Indeed, the outrageous truth is that such picketing at the funerals of homosexuals is rather commonplace, as is the twisted notion that AIDS is somehow God’s way of punishing homosexuals.

Such despicable persecution of gays has clearly continued, and perhaps even grown since 1998, as anti-gay religious Evangelicals have accumulated more and more power in America. And now, the basic rights of homosexuals, including the right to enter into marriage and receive the same medical and other rights as heterosexuals, is under attack. Many Evan-geli-cals have based these attacks against gays on the fact that the Bible classifies homosexuality as a sin. Many gay-rights supporters, including religious organizations, have rightly condemned these vicious attacks on the basic rights of homosexuals. In doing so, however, they have often claimed that the Bible is a book of tolerance and that God would never advocate violence against homosexuals.

Here again, unfortunately, we see a contradiction: Justice, and a morality that reflects this, are clearly on the side of progressives, yet the Bible is clearly on the side of the Evangelicals. And this is yet another powerful example of what is wrong with interpreting the Bible literally as a means for organizing society—or of attempting to base justice and morality on what the Bible literally says. For in actuality, the Bible does condemn homosexuality in no uncertain terms.

A passage in Leviticus clearly states “Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence.” (Leviticus 18) And there can be no doubt what is meant by “lie with,” because this phrase is used throughout the Bible in a way that makes it clear that the phrase means “to sleep with” or “to have sex with.”

In addition to the horror of classifying homosexual relations as an abhorrence, two other things are noteworthy about the placement of this passage in the Bible: First, that it follows directly after God gives a speech in which he emphasizes that his laws, and only his laws, are to be followed directly. In other words, it is clear that God’s decrees on homosexuality, just like all the rest of his decrees, are meant to be followed literally: There is no wiggle room. The second noteworthy aspect of the placement of this condemnation of homosexuality is that it is uttered as part of the same passage that also condemns practices such as bestiality and incest, thereby lumping acts of love between two people of the same sex with sex between people and animals and also amongst family members. That the Bible would implicitly link these practices is not insignificant; many powerful Christian fundamentalists, including Senator Rick Santorum, have picked up on this logic to assert that “legitimizing” gay sex and gay marriage would open the door to the acceptance of such practices as bestiality and incest. This may seem absurd to us—and it should. Yet it is an absurdity that originates from the Bible itself.

But the Bible does not stop at merely condemning homosexuality as an “abhorrence.” It also has God very clearly advocating the death penalty for homosexuals. Just a little bit further on in Leviticus, it is stated, “If a man lies with a male as one lies with a woman, the two of them have done an abhorrent thing; they shall be put to death —their bloodguilt is upon them.” (Leviticus 20)

Thus, this section of my analysis of the five Mosaic books has hopefully demonstrated well beyond doubt that the society envisioned in these parts of the Bible is hardly one that we would want to live in. And let us remember that it is in these parts of the Bible that the Ten Command-ments are to be found—yes, the same Ten Commandments that Christian fundamentalists are demanding be posted in all kinds of public places, including in schools and courtrooms, with the insistence that these Ten Commandments will inspire “moral character” among youth and the people in society as a whole. From what I have shown here, it should be clear that the kind of society that would result from implementing literally what is said in the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic books of the Bible would be one characterized by the ultimate dominance of faith over science; the total subjugation of woman to man, enforced by tremendous and violent repression; the flourishing existence of human slavery; bloody and unforgiving religious intolerance; the bloodthirsty conquest and plunder of peoples who have different religions and ways of life, or who simply get in the way of what the “chosen nation” of the Lord is determined to control and exploit; the violent oppression and persecution of homosexuals; and the meting out of the death penalty for a wide variety of acts that many of us today would not even consider to be “crimes.”

In the next installment, I will discuss the way in which the Bible is characterized by yet another element of fascism: Consolidation of rule by fear and terror.

To be continued—Part 3: God Consolidates His Rule By Total Fear and Terror