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Thread: Sexism and Racism in the Bible

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    Sexism and Racism in the Bible

    I find the Bible quite sexist and racist in certain parts (if you disagree I can list them). The religious people I know tell me that that meaning evolves over time and these parts are no longer relevant today, although some people are more rigid in their interpretation.

    Dante argues in the Divine Comedy that God, as perfection, is completely unchanging because if perfection were to change its only course could be toward imperfection.

    Is this accurate? Can the Word of God ever "change"?

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    Jethro BienvenuJDC's Avatar
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    (Remember that some do not take the same interpretation as what I am presenting here. But my comments are based solely on this interpretation. If you do not believe in God or Christianity, or if you have a varying view of Christianity, then you may disagree with these comments. However, I am presenting one perspective in order to answer the query.)

    Consider the passage from the prophet Malachi when he spoke on God's behalf say, "I am the Lord, I do not change." The message of the Bible and the theme has never changed. But if you consider the context of the Bible, taking it as one unified book from its Author, who is God, then this message does not change. However, there may be certain reasons for certain commands to different people in different times.

    There are certain commands which were given to particular people. For instance, the Ten Commandments were meant for ONLY the Jewish nation during the Mosaic Dispensation. While other passages were given to Christians after the church was established. Christians were not (are not) subjected to the Law of Moses, which was only given as a tutor to a race to teach a basic concept of sin. However, the message as a whole is the same.

    As far as racism and sexism is concerned, one would have to define what they view as racist and sexist, and how that perspective might be different is coming from a supernatural Creator who made both body and soul. Each soul (apart from the body) has no gender, nor does it have ethnicity, race, or nationality. God has His mind set on things that are spiritual, not those things that are physical. From His perspective, He has set certain things in a certain order to teach mankind. I believe that the Scriptures teach that the role of man (masculine) is representative of the role of God, while the role of woman is representative of mankind. Therefore, when there are Scriptures teach that the woman should be submissive, it is a pattern of a people (both male and female) that should be submissive to God. It also teaches that man (masculine) should be loving and respectful to the wife. These lessons are not about equality, but about roles. We live in a selfish society where the service to self is priority one. It is difficult for these Biblical concepts to be understood in that light.

    Concerning the issue of racism, there may be different outlooks considering to which passage that one refers. Again we must remember that we are talking about an infinite God who is spiritual. He had commanded that some ethnic groups be totally wiped out by the Israelite nation. These people who were commanded to be destroyed were going against the nature of God, committing vile evil acts. God then being spiritual was able to take care of the souls and sort out based on His judgment those who He wished to bestow His mercy.

    However, there are other passages that were merely accounts of how the Jews had viewed other nations. These views were in fact racist. Consider Jonah's attitude toward the Ninevites. He was mad that God didn't destroy them when they repented. God did not condone this attitude, but He condemned it. Nonetheless, the Bible is written ultimately with a spiritual theme, and there is not gender or race to the spirit, therefore racism and sexism in that respect is a moot point.
    Les Miserables,
    Volume 1, Fifth Book, Chapter 3
    Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators.

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    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    A slightly different perspective, also to answer the query.

    When I was a Christian, I was quite happy to recognise that the Bible was a collection of writings by different authors, and that the views expressed in them were not necessarily the views of the Editor.

    The books do not represent God's gradual revelation of Himself to men but the changing understanding of God by men. Of course the two may be the same thing, in which case ignore my answer and stick with Bienvenu's - but I think that they are quite different.

    Obviously, the Bible changed over time - the books were written over millenia. Calling the the whole work by the honorific "Word of God" signifies its importance, but should be taken to mean "(Definitive & sufficient) collection of writings about God" not "God's revelations of himself, dictated by himself."

    The miracle is that out of imperfect human effort, God achieves His purpose. Read the Bible with a view to finding errors and discrepancies, and you will find them. Read it with a view to finding God and you will find Him too. St Paul, as usual, has the telling phrase, loosely translated by Herbert, "A man that looks on glass, on it may stay his eye; or, if he pleaseth, through it pass and then the heavens espy."


    And, by the way, Dante was wrong. In God are an infinity of perfections, each perfect and complete.
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    BadWoolf JuniperWoolf's Avatar
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    That's why I dislike the Christian religion more than any other religion except for perhaps Islam (I can't know for sure though, since I haven't read the koran yet). Page one: women are partial humans, manipulative and stupid and are the reason for all suffering on earth. Christians can wrap desperately complex pseudo-logic around all of the hatred, racism and misogyny in the bible all they want, most of us non-Christians who actually read the bible aren't buying it.

  5. #5
    Is not applying the racism and sexism label somewhat anachronistic to something written 2000+ years ago anyway?

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    BadWoolf JuniperWoolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    Is not applying the racism and sexism label somewhat anachronistic to something written 2000+ years ago anyway?
    It might have been written 2000+ years ago, but people still live their lives by it today. A disturbing number of people even take it literally and consider it infallable, so discrediting the bible for being sexist, racist and homophobic is still valid. You don't see anyone talking about how sexist Hesiod was, because no one bases their morality on Works and Days.
    Last edited by JuniperWoolf; 08-04-2011 at 08:44 PM.

  7. #7
    The Bible is ethically appalling.

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    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whifflingpin View Post
    A slightly different perspective, also to answer the query.

    When I was a Christian, I was quite happy to recognise that the Bible was a collection of writings by different authors, and that the views expressed in them were not necessarily the views of the Editor.

    The books do not represent God's gradual revelation of Himself to men but the changing understanding of God by men. Of course the two may be the same thing, in which case ignore my answer and stick with Bienvenu's - but I think that they are quite different.

    Obviously, the Bible changed over time - the books were written over millenia. Calling the the whole work by the honorific "Word of God" signifies its importance, but should be taken to mean "(Definitive & sufficient) collection of writings about God" not "God's revelations of himself, dictated by himself."

    The miracle is that out of imperfect human effort, God achieves His purpose. Read the Bible with a view to finding errors and discrepancies, and you will find them. Read it with a view to finding God and you will find Him too. St Paul, as usual, has the telling phrase, loosely translated by Herbert, "A man that looks on glass, on it may stay his eye; or, if he pleaseth, through it pass and then the heavens espy."


    And, by the way, Dante was wrong. In God are an infinity of perfections, each perfect and complete.
    I think this is an excellent explanation and reveals the imperfection of humankind more than the imperfections of God. It is reasonable that societal attitudes have existed throughout time and are subject to change accordingly. This does not mean that God does, only our interpretations.
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Delta40 View Post
    It is reasonable that societal attitudes have existed throughout time and are subject to change accordingly. This does not mean that God does, only our interpretations.
    There is nothing ethical about a psychopath.

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    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    "A disturbing number of people even take it literally and consider it infallable, so discrediting the bible for being sexist, racist and homophobic is still valid. "

    Of course it is. But simply rejecting the rest of it because of that is not. Ezra may be vile, but Amos or Hosea should rank among the world's greater moralists.
    The overwhelming message of the New Testament, at least as far as human relations are concerned, is that self-sacrifice is the (I nearly said "crucial") critical requirement. That is a message very hard to find elsewhere.
    Voices mysterious far and near,
    Sound of the wind and sound of the sea,
    Are calling and whispering in my ear,
    Whifflingpin! Why stayest thou here?

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Whifflingpin View Post
    "A disturbing number of people even take it literally and consider it infallable, so discrediting the bible for being sexist, racist and homophobic is still valid. "

    Of course it is. But simply rejecting the rest of it because of that is not. Ezra may be vile, but Amos or Hosea should rank among the world's greater moralists.
    The overwhelming message of the New Testament, at least as far as human relations are concerned, is that self-sacrifice is the (I nearly said "crucial") critical requirement. That is a message very hard to find elsewhere.
    You can take anything out of the Bible and turn it into a message of hope - that doesn't make it good.
    Last edited by G L Wilson; 08-04-2011 at 09:21 PM.

  12. #12
    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    "You can take anything out of the Bible and turn it into a message of hope - that doesn't make it good."

    If the first part of your statement were true, then I think the second part would be false.
    Voices mysterious far and near,
    Sound of the wind and sound of the sea,
    Are calling and whispering in my ear,
    Whifflingpin! Why stayest thou here?

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    You can take anything out of the Bible and turn it into a message of hope - that doesn't make it good.

    Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.
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    The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography...

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    Quote Originally Posted by JuniperWoolf View Post
    That's why I dislike the Christian religion more than any other religion except for perhaps Islam (I can't know for sure though, since I haven't read the koran yet). Page one: women are partial humans, manipulative and stupid and are the reason for all suffering on earth. Christians can wrap desperately complex pseudo-logic around all of the hatred, racism and misogyny in the bible all they want, most of us non-Christians who actually read the bible aren't buying it.
    I found this website an interesting read ...
    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by cl154576 View Post
    I find the Bible quite sexist and racist in certain parts (if you disagree I can list them). The religious people I know tell me that that meaning evolves over time and these parts are no longer relevant today, although some people are more rigid in their interpretation.

    Dante argues in the Divine Comedy that God, as perfection, is completely unchanging because if perfection were to change its only course could be toward imperfection.

    Is this accurate? Can the Word of God ever "change"?
    I donít agree that meaning evolves over time. Religions and are very a powerful tools to shape our reality and influence our consciousness. But I wouldnít limit it to the Bible as I have found unequal treatment of women in many religions. Somebody who says that it is not relevant today is in a big denial.

    Can the Word of God ever "change"?
    It is a very good question. But the word of God in the Bible is very different than words of gods in Buddhism or Hindu religion, for example.We may ask, therefore, where is the truth? Sadly, we have not been raised to question our religious beliefs but blindly follow.

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