An Atheist Reads The Bible: Unclean, Everything Is Unclean!

The story takes an interlude away from Moses and instead details the laws that God wants us to follow. The main theme of the book is a dire fear of the unclean. Honestly, Leviticus must have been written by OCD germophobe as there is an obsession with avoiding anything unclean (which turns out to be most things). God gives these rules unconditionally and demands that they must be obeyed, which Christians have interpreted to mean they can pick and choose whichever they wish to follow.

Leviticus begins with some long and boring chapters on the proper way to offer sacrifices to God. It is described in minute detail the exact sort of animal and grain to be offered, exactly how it should be offered and what to be done afterwards. Then there is an explanation of how you can atone for certain sins with offerings. It drags along for 9 chapters without too much being said. It should also be said that Leviticus is incredibly badly written, with far too much unnecessary detail and repetition of petty issues, while actually important rules are rushed through. I mean, the destruction of almost all the life on the planet in Noah’s Flood gets a single page, while dozens of pages are spent repeating exactly how you should kill a goat.

One point to mention is that animal sacrifice is a massive part of the Bible. After pretty much every event, some animals are sacrificed to God, which he seems to like. Why? Why would the creator of the universe be impressed with a dead goat? What does God gain from it? Also, ancient societies were desperately poor and most people lived very close to starvation. It was rare for a commoner to be fat as there simply was rarely enough food. The Bible demands huge amount of meat to be wasted that surely must have pushed some people into starvation. When there was so little food, why would God demand that people needlessly suffer hunger?

However, God couldn’t let so many chapters go by without randomly killing someone, so in chapter 10, we have the useless death of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu. They offer a sacrifice to God, but it is “unauthorised” so God burns them alive. Out of all the pointless and petty reasons God has to kill people, this comes close to the top. These people are literally worshipping God and he still kills them! To make matters worse in chapter 16, God spends an entire chapter detailing the elaborate process Aaron must go through to cleanse himself and atone for having his sons murdered by God.

Then comes the dietary rules and the list of animals that Jews are forbidden from eating. I can’t see any logic or reasoning behind it. The rule is that whatever parts the hoof (?) and chews the cud, can be eaten. But why? So pig (the tastiest of all animals) is forbidden (this alone questions God’s divinity). Everything in water that does not have fins or scales is also forbidden. Birds are picked seemingly at random and banned, but some insects are allowed. Dietary rules are still taken very seriously by Jews, but I can’t see why they exist at all.

unclean

Of course, this is the Bible, so we need some needless sexism to remind women how inferior they are. Chapter 12 explains that if a woman gives birth to a male child, she is unclean for seven days and must spend another thirty-three days “in the blood of her purifying”. However, just to hammer home the point that women are second class, if she gives birth to a female child, she is unclean for twice as long. She must then offer a sacrifice to “make atonement”. Why is giving birth considered a dirty act? Shouldn’t it be a joyful occasion? Needless to say the men are not considered unclean in any way or need to do anything. Reading the Bible will turn anyone into a Feminist. This practice was continued until relatively recently in Ireland where women had to be “churched” after giving birth.

We then get a really tedious description of how to deal with leprosy (a term which covers a range of skin diseases) if it affects people, clothes or houses (?). Basically, the priest will look at the disease and see if it is deeper than the skin. How is a priest supposed to know that just from looking? If it is deeper than the skin, the priest will proclaim them unclean and they will be banished from the community and must live alone. If not, they will be locked up for seven days and re-examined and if clean, released. What strikes me most about this is that God doesn’t provide any remedies for these diseases. The only action is to separate the patient and hope the disease goes away. Why does God not tell people how to cure leprosy? Why did God create leprosy in the first place (since God created everything) and make humans suffer from it?

Leviticus has an obsession with clean and unclean, with almost every chapter condemning something as unclean. Faecal discharge (it took a while for me to choose the appropriate term) is unclean (which makes sense) as well as “emission of semen” and people must wash after them. However, when women menstruate, they are unclean for seven days and so is everything they lie on, sit on or touch in any way. If anyone touches anything she touches, they must wash themselves and their clothes and are unclean for the rest of the day. If a man sleeps with a woman during this time, he too is unclean for seven days.

Chapter 18 has a weird commandment against seeing your relatives naked. You are forbidden from uncovering your father’s nakedness because this is your mother’s nakedness. This doesn’t really make much sense. I presume it means sex? But why is seeing your father naked an insult to your mother? Just in case the point wasn’t clear, every single possible relative is named and uncovering their nakedness is forbidden. Then there is the infamous line “do not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” which says nothing about lesbianism or same sex marriage, which religious groups don’t seem to realise. Bestiality is also forbidden and all of the above carry the death penalty. It is also claimed that God is giving the Promised Land to the Jews because the current inhabitants are practicing all of the above. But did God ever tell them that these things are forbidden?

There is a huge amount of waffle in Leviticus, but once we reach chapter 19, the pace quickens and God starts rapidly shooting out laws. Farmers must leave some of their crop for the poor, you shouldn’t steal, lie or oppress your neighbour and your workers should be paid at the end of the day. These are actually decent rules and I’m surprised that we can have five laws in a row that are neither random, sexist or kill people for no reason. As if to make up for this, the next set of laws are bizarre. Cattle cannot breed with another kind (of what?); you cannot plant two different seeds in your field or wear clothes made from two different materials. If a man sleeps with a female slave, he must pay a fine to the slave’s owner. For the first three years after you plant a tree, you are forbidden from eating its fruit, the fourth year must be offered to God and only in the fifth year can you eat it.

You cannot tell fortunes or interpret omens, which is odd, because back in Genesis Joseph was famous for interpreting dreams. God too frequently tells people their fortunes, like how he will bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.” Is this one a joke? Slavery is fine but cutting your hair a certain way is forbidden? Tattoos are also forbidden which someone should tell to the people who get tattoos of Jesus. Honour the face of an old man (I really feel like these laws were randomly drawn from a pick & mix bag). Do not do wrong to travellers. Don’t turn your daughter into a prostitute (fair enough). Do not go to mediums or necromancers (people who can speak to the dead or even bring them back to life). Interestingly, it doesn’t claim they are frauds or that only God can communicate with the dead, it seems to believe these people really can raise the dead too. This is a point that occurs frequently in the Bible, as it seems that whoever wrote it doesn’t believe that only God can perform miracles or magic, only that he is best at it.

So the moral of these rules is that everything is unclean and there’s a lot of things you shouldn’t do/eat or else you’ll die. The most striking thing about these rules is how petty and random they are. There is no deep moral code, just a haphazard collection of rules.

For the rest of the series, see here.

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14 thoughts on “An Atheist Reads The Bible: Unclean, Everything Is Unclean!”

  1. “Why is giving birth considered a dirty act? Shouldn’t it be a joyful occasion?”
    -I guess men considered predictable hemorrhages to be something like a curse.

  2. “In any event, the rabbis’ major concern lies elsewhere; their obsession with separation is, generally speaking, of a different kind. To eat what the Gentiles eat is to become like a Gentile oneself. Kashrut imposes strict limitations on shared meals between Jews and Gentiles. It seems likely that this is its purpose: to preserve the identity and cohesion of the group and thereby, perhaps, to ensure that it accomplishes its mission outside the group. One does not eat the other’s food so as not to become the other.”

    (The Jew and the Other by Esther Benbassa, Jean-Christophe Attias

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=MwcxgOTR2cEC&pg=PA160&lpg=PA160&dq=The+Jew+and+the+Other.+Esther+Benbassa+and+Jean-Christophe+Attias&source=bl&ots=NC9DJiQqdG&sig=NMOCUGJf5iOaqzNJo4omWfuDNro&hl=en&sa=X&ei=iW1KVdrkBcWdsgHaw4DgCg&ved=0CEEQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=The%20Jew%20and%20the%20Other.%20Esther%20Benbassa%20and%20Jean-Christophe%20Attias&f=false

  3. If God can apparently kill people for sacrificing a goat the wrong way, then having 10 pages of instruction on how to do that seems perfectly reasonable.

  4. Yeah I can’t even imagine being a woman abiding by those “laws” after going through hours/days of terrible pain only to be considered “unclean” and then offer up a sacrifice on top of that. Exceptionally cruel was the treatment of lepers/Aaron’s sons. 😦
    Nothing angers me more (Besides torture and violence) than petty fucking rules.

  5. Has it crossed your mind that it is not religion (Christianity, Judaism) that makes a person a “social conservative” but rather a person with the personality (most probably genetically determined like homosexuality) of a “social conservative” is drawn to religion?

    “Social conservatism” is independent of religion. See Putin’s homophobia. Putin doesn’t argue his homophobia with quotes from the Bible but uses the age-old argument that the “debauchery of a permissive society” (in Russian)
    is detrimental to a strong society. The same arguments used by the British Jewish social commentator/moralist Melanie Philips…

    You see, fundamentalist Christians can be liars. Obviously, those who wrote (composed) the Bible were liars (but why contemporaries believed them?). But those who say that they are against homosexuals because the Bible writes so and so lie too. Lie too themselves at least. Unbeknownst to them their homophobia preceded their religiosity…

    1. Why are you talking about social conservatives? I never mentioned them in my post. No one else did, you are the only person talking about them. Your comment has nothing to do with the post and I don’t know why you posted it.

  6. 1. “Christians have interpreted to mean they can pick and choose whichever they wish to follow.”

    I think that they dismissed them altogether.

    2. “Leviticus begins with some long and boring chapters on the proper way to offer sacrifices to God.”

    Ah, Jews also chose to pick and chose. Do they still practice animal sacrifices?

    3. “I mean, the destruction of almost all the life on the planet in Noah’s Flood gets a single page”

    Probably Noah’s story was plagiarised from somewhere while what was told in the Leviticus was very important for the practice of Judaism and very Jewish. For most people being religious is doing something…

    4. “Why would the creator of the universe be impressed with a dead goat? What does God gain from it?”

    Why we need to kill to live, that is the question that you should ask! Are you a vegetarian? Plants live too… Amway,

    5. “Also, ancient societies were desperately poor and most people lived very close to starvation. It was rare for a commoner to be fat as there simply was rarely enough food.”

    ?

    (Btw, if you know so much about the past, tell me why people believed in the lies of the composers of the Bible?)

    (It is not meat that makes people fat but carbohydrates from cereals. Obvious meat products are essential to health. So, rich people who were more likely to have a diet based on the more pleasurable meat were also more likely to be thinner than the poor who gorged on the cheep bread… )

    6. “The Bible demands huge amount of meat to be wasted that surely must have pushed some people into starvation. When there was so little food, why would God demand that people needlessly suffer hunger?”

    They eat the sacrificed animals.

    7. “They offer a sacrifice to God, but it is “unauthorised” so God burns them alive. Out of all the pointless and petty reasons God has to kill people, this comes close to the top.”

    Thank goodness that it didn’t exist…

    8. “So pig (the tastiest of all animals)”

    Some say dogs too… Have you ever tasted a dog a la chinoise? Yum-yum.

    9. “Why is giving birth considered a dirty act? Shouldn’t it be a joyful occasion?”

    Probably because they remembered the silly reasons why they conceived those children… You know, contraception was unknown or not efficient back then but alcohol widely available…

    10. “Reading the Bible will turn anyone into a Feminist,”

    It is funny because “knowing their Bible” made many Protestants, especially from Anglo-Saxon countries, to become Judeophiles and staunch defenders of Israel but I never heard of any of them becoming a feminist…

    11. “Why did God create leprosy in the first place (since God created everything) and make humans suffer from it?”

    And the atheist answer to that is? Ah, I know. “There is grandeur in this view of life…” 😉

    12. “Faecal discharge (it took a while for me to choose the appropriate term) is unclean (which makes sense) as well as “emission of semen” and people must wash after them. However, when women menstruate, they are unclean for seven days and so is everything they lie on, sit on or touch in any way. If anyone touches anything she touches, they must wash themselves and their clothes and are unclean for the rest of the day. If a man sleeps with a woman during this time, he too is unclean for seven days.”

    Here you contradict yourself.

    13. “I presume it means sex? But why is seeing your father naked an insult to your mother?”

    Probably they had in mind daughters seeing naked fathers.

    14. “Bestiality is also forbidden and all of the above carry the death penalty.”

    Ah, now I know why most people are disgusted by bestiality… Again, stupid Christianity…

    15. ” But did God ever tell them that these things are forbidden?”

    This would make sense to you if you see Judaism not as a monotheism but a henotheism. In fact all religions are henotheisms.

    16. ” Slavery is fine but cutting your hair a certain way is forbidden?”

    Surprisingly, slavery has been fine for more than 7000 years up until some 150 years ago.

    17. “This is a point that occurs frequently in the Bible, as it seems that whoever wrote it doesn’t believe that only God can perform miracles or magic, only that he is best at it.”

    See point 15.

    18. “The most striking thing about these rules is how petty and random they are. There is no deep moral code, just a haphazard collection of rules.”

    That is exactly how the rules of our culture are or of any culture. But don’t tell this to the conventional wisdom people of today…

    1. But poor people worked harder manually then richer people(who had slaves) so no question of fattening the poor. I think most royalty were kinda fat, poor people with their bread weren’t so much, but was bread even available ? The desert region was surely prone to famines, and crops not growing in droughts.

  7. I doitn want any more religion.

    The JW's were in the other day n said I was off to hell.

     

    Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 12:34 PM

  8. Get rid of religion n tghe world wud be a better place.

    Im an evolutionist.

    The Jehovas think im strange.

    The Mormons think im strange.

    Othere think im strange. 

    I think its all snake oil

    Ashes to asshes n dust to dust die if u will but die u must.

     

    Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 12:34 PM

  9. I dont read the bible. Jehovah Witness think im going to h ell. 

    I just dont belive in religion its all man made.

    Im an evolutionist not a creathionist.

     

    Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 12:34 PM

  10. Christians, of course, mostly take the position that the NT supersedes the OT, until they need to cherry-pick the OT to support their opposition to same-sex marriage or some such.

    I can understand some of Lev’s dietary restrictions in that there was no refrigeration and spoiled shellfish or undercooked pork could lead to a trip to the emergency room for an exorcism. No, they didn’t have ERs but they did believe illness was caused by demonic possession, so the efficacy of medicine was rather low.

    Leviticus was clearly written by what is referred to in Biblical studies as the “Priestly Class.” These were people wanting to establish their power over the people (already given as being equal to the “Kingly Class”) and what better way to control people than to create a whole bunch of rules they need to be educated on and from which mistakes will need to be absolved (oh, the sacrifices they made!).

    The nonsensical nature of many of these 600+ rules probably hides a great many sensible rules which we no longer understand. Maybe the “not wearing clothes of mixed-fibers” ban came about via a bribe from the weavers union, hard to tell.

    Keep up the good work, young man. Same-sex marriage is becoming acceptable in the U.S. because gay people came out of the closet and we found them rather likable. More secularists and atheists coming out can only lead to their “doctrines” (rather lack of doctrines) becoming more acceptable.

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