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Meditation 469
Reading my bible

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The most frequent messages I get from believers, some of which find their way into Talk Back, is "Read your bible!"

Somehow reading my bible is supposed to magically convert me into a fervent Christian, presumably one who will then go around converting other agnostics by telling them to "Read your bible!"

So, let us read a bible passage together and see if it miraculously converts us into believers. Let us consider the instructions on making war that God has provided to the Israelites through Moses; (I've provided a traditional translation along with a modern one to ensure that the essential ideas are communicated)

King James Version
New Living Translation

Deu 20:10 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.

Deu 20:10 "As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace.

Deu 20:11 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.

Deu 20:11 If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor.

Deu 20:12 And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:

Deu 20:12 But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town.

Deu 20:13 And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:

Deu 20:13 When the Lord your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town.
Deu 20:14 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.

Deu 20:14 But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the Lord your God has given you.
Deu 20:15 thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations. Deu 20:15 But these instructions apply only to distant towns, not to the towns of nations nearby.
Deu 20:16 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:

Deu 20:16 "As for the towns of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as a special possession, destroy every living thing in them.
Deu 20:17 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:

Deu 20:17 You must completely destroy the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, just as the Lord your God has commanded you.
Deu 20:18 That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God. Deu 20:18 This will keep the people of the land from teaching you their detestable customs in the worship of their gods, which would cause you to sin deeply against the Lord your God.
Deu 20:19 When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man's life) to employ them in the siege:

Deu 20:19 "When you are besieging a town and the war drags on, do not destroy the trees. Eat the fruit, but do not cut down the trees. They are not enemies that need to be attacked!

Deu 20:20 Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down; and thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued.

Deu 20:20 But you may cut down trees that you know are not valuable for food. Use them to make the equipment you need to besiege the town until it falls.

Now there's nothing here that was not done by other groups in ancient history. I'm not suggesting the ancient Israelites were any worse in committing war atrocities than others of the same era. If we read the stories of the wars the ancient Greeks had amongst themselves, we see the same enslaving of populations who surrendered without a fight, the same massacres of the men and enslaving of the women and children if a city chose to fight. However, the Greeks called it politics, not a commandment from one of their gods, even though they would probably claim their city's god assisted them in achieving victory.

I would suggest that most thinking Jews and Christians today do not regard the passage quoted above as a true commandment from God, but rather as a way the ancient Israelites justified their actions in taking over Israel and Judah. But these aren't the people who write telling me to "Read your bible." The ones who write with that message are the literalists who think the bible is inerrant. And to them I say the above verses are one of the many reasons I reject your God.

A god who would give such instructions has no claim to be good; such a god has no moral authority over anyone. I reject this god.