After having made it through most of the Christian bible’s Old Testament, perusing now Isaiah, I see what many people with whom I’ve spoken say about the beauty and kindness contained within said book’s pages. There are fantastic passages that seem to tell the reader to be merciful and good. I also see, however, how someone reading this ancient text could soon become radicalized and filled with righteous hatred.
Psalms 137:8-9 (Good News Bible, Today’s English Version) for example says: “Babylon, you will be destroyed. Happy is the man who pays you back for what you have done to us - who takes your babies and smashes them against a rock.” The Old Testament abounds with such language, with pleasure gained from the suffering of innocent victims, with pleas to Yahweh that the reader might rejoice when the children’s children’s children of this foe or that enemy are punished for his misdeeds. Taken out of context, of course, such words would horrify any modern, rational, sane-minded individual.
Why, though, are such hateful and despicable passages still in the text? Why have they not been excised? Why does the Christian bible still contain parts that call for finding joy in the suffering of others, kids and other innocents alike? Anybody who recites the Nicene creed must believe in the Old Testament, including that: “Intelligent people talk sense, but stupid people need to be punished” (Proverbs 10:13). Punished by whom, though, and when? By an armed teenager, today, or by a bloodthirst god thousands of years ago? Keeping such destructive and terrifying language in one’s holy book encourages weak-minded and easily excitable individuals, who seek guidance from Bronze-age belief systems such as the Christian bible, to harm others. The bible has been changed before, for purposes political and power-related. Why not change it again and take out all the hate-mongering and schadenfreude? While it’s not a perfect system, anyone looking for a different and more peaceful path might turn, for example, to Buddhism, a code that contains within itself far fewer calls to abject violence against persons who cannot defend themselves.
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