Please Stop Quoting Leviticus

I’m probably going to be too busy to do this regularly, but for old times’ sake here’s another.  I’m not trying to take any position on the gay marriage fight in this post; that would take a much longer post, and everybody’s made up their mind on that already.

Is there anything sillier, or more painful to watch, than an amateur trying to show up an expert by citing cherry-picked information from the expert’s own subject of expertise?  For example, creationists trying to “disprove” evolution by pointing to some trivial anomaly in the body of research.  Much of the time it isn’t even a real anomaly, and reflects only the creationist’s ignorance of how evolution is supposed to work.  My favorite: “If people evolved from apes, why do we still have apes?”  The creationist smiles smugly; every educated person listening to or reading him winces, sighs, and decides it simply isn’t worth the effort of even beginning to correct this rube.

Say you come across an apparent contradiction in a much-studied field.  There are basically two possibilities.  The more likely is that the contradiction is only apparent because of your own ignorance, or else has been noted and addressed a long time ago.  The less likely, but more flattering, and therefore frequently believed option is that most or all of the experts in the field are, not to put too fine a point on it, idiots.  And you, of all people, are the clever fellow who finally noticed the disparity.  Of course they laugh at you–they laughed at Galileo, didn’t they?

To that end, I have a request: could all you non-religious people please stop quoting random bits from the Bible to win arguments?  You can at least go to the effort of reading it regularly, studying a little theology, or otherwise take some pains to ensure you know what you are talking about.  Copy-pasting smugatheist.com’s list of EIGHT BIBLE QUOTES THAT PROVE IT’S ALL NONSENSE doesn’t count.  The people you’re arguing against, in all likelihood, have much more experience with Scripture than you do.  Especially if they’re leaders in whatever movement you’re opposing.  If your opponent is a pastor, he’s likely been reading the Bible daily for years.  He ran into the bit you’re quoting back in seminary–along with the bit that explains it.

This problem most frequently crops up in the gay marriage argument, which is now pretty well finished as far as the public sphere in America is concerned.  So I suppose the frequency of these silly arguments might down a bit.  Anyway, let’s suppose you’ve just discovered the Pentateuch, and are terribly excited because Leviticus forbids a whole bunch of other things aside from gay sex, like shellfish and mixed-fiber clothing.  It seems like slam-dunk; Christians can’t just selectively obey the parts of the Bible they like, can they?  No, they can’t.

And, as it turns out, they–we–don’t.

Council of Jerusalem, Acts Chapter 15: the Apostles meet and decide that the bulk of the Mosaic Law is pointless.  The only parts Christians are required to preserve are the portions on fornication, idolatry, and consuming blood.  Also improperly slaughtered animals, though what exactly that entails is a matter of interpretation.  I suppose if you really want to be an ass you can yell at any Christians you see eating blood sausage, but really that’s it.  The ban on shrimp and pork is doubly invalid due to a bit earlier in Acts where Peter receives a vision from God telling him, “what My hands have made you must not call unclean.”

Right now somebody is reading this and getting ready to post that Sermon on the Mount quote about nothing passing from the Law.  Sorry, that’s no good either; Jesus himself explicitly modifies the Law Himself in that same speech (re: adultery), and at various points throughout all four gospels.  So, what are we to make of it all?

Hmm.  I don’t know.  Perhaps you should consult an expert.

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