How many people of faith realize there are over thirty examples of horror within the Bible, Koran, and Jewish Torah?

religionHow much does a believer of religion know about their faith of choice? When discussing issues surrounding monotheistic traditions in the West, it seems that many Christians and Muslims often present a certain ideal of what they believe their faith to be, but are unaware of the horrifying doctrines that leap out of the texts.

The Christian Bible and Muslim Koran are often pointed out by people of the faith as the inspiration of their moral values. Not only do these people of faith believe the texts are the source of their values, they also believe the scriptures to be the source of humanity’s morals.

While it is certain that one may find an uplifting passage, or moving poetry in the words of these ancient texts, it does not conceal the real issues these religious doctrines pose. In many sections of the Bible and Koran, passages instruct believers to commit the most horrible of acts in the name of their faith.

A great piece from Alternet, details over thirty examples of the horrors within the Bible, Koran, and Jewish Torah. Among the list are examples I have stated regularly in the past. However, the Alternet article also listed examples I was not too familiar with. The examples from the list extend to genocide, and to sex slavery.

The scriptures dictate commands and parables that provide moral direction many Christians and Muslims do not desire today.

Believers are instructed to be ready to raise weapons in both defense of the faith and in offense against those who do not believe. The instructions of what to do with those “pagans” who do not believe usually entail slaughtering the entire community (especially their women and children).

Adulterers are frowned upon, as is homosexuality. The death penalty is usually the remedy for both situations. Girls who have sex before marriage and without the approval of the father are commanded to be burned to death. If your daughter is not a virgin on her wedding night, she is to be stoned to death on her father’s doorstep.

Mohammed was a military conqueror, so much violence and disparagement is associated with his age. Pagans under Muslim conquest were instructed to convert, pay a tax, or be destroyed. While Mohammed is the conqueror, Jesus is often described as a pacifist. This may be true according to certain gospels, but Jesus was certainly not a “family” figure.

Jesus commanded all his followers to abandon their families and possessions. Jesus stated that anyone who loved their families more than him, were not worthy of him. If any member of your family worships other gods, you are to kill them. This is the figure “family values” types put out as their role model. Jesus despised the family unit.

Children are to be obedient to the parents, especially the father. In fact, if a child disrespects their father than the father has a right to stone his child to death. The father also has the right to sell his daughters into slavery, under certain “conditions” of course.

When it comes to many of the passages outlined in Alternet’s piece, believers seem to be unaware of them. It is interesting to see how a Christian or Muslim can claim that they derive their morals from these texts when they are filled with immorality (at least by our secular standards).

It is fine if one wants to admonish the Bible and Koran as pieces of literature, on par with say the Iliad or Odyssey. Yet, once these examples of Abrahamic cruelty are brought forth, isn’t it clear now why many atheists and agnostics say we should not have our morals in society determined solely by the texts of the major religions?

How well do you know your religion? Are the 10 Commandments the source of our morals, or is our conscious? There are plenty of Bible stories I wouldn’t be reading to your kids at bedtime.


  1. How disappointing!

    First, I’m not sure what gave rise to the writing of the column. You have taken every care to reference such primitive texts on previous occasions and I wonder if, by focusing on them and them only, you hoped to further drive home what is, quite frankly, a misleading point that is embarrassingly devoid of any sense per how sacred texts function—whether in an institutional or individual sense—for the vast majority of those whose spiritual homes are in the Abrahamic triad. Indeed, your understanding of both sacred texts and how they function within institutionalized religion is very nearly as primitive as some of the texts themselves.

    Second, your interpretation of some of the texts themselves is not worthy of someone who wants to seriously discuss how 21st-century religious adherents find authority in documents that, in either oral or written form, date from the 8th-century or so B.C.E. to the 7th-century or so C.E.

    Third, you throw texts together as if any of these texts constitute a consistent whole—which none of them does. In one paragraph you have a sentence about pagans under Muslim conquest, a following sentence that contrasts Mohammed’s identity as a Conqueror with only one of the popular identifications of Jesus (as a “pacifist”) and then a completely unrelated closing sentence that laughably misunderstands a fundamental “saying” attributed to Jesus and leads you to propose that he certainly wasn’t a “family figure”—whatever that is.

    My suggestion, however, is that you not listen to me per how one finds a sacred text authoritative enough for the building of a 21st-century ethic. Perhaps you could take a year off and actually study the function of sacred texts and the way their authority functions within a community—okay, take two or three or four years off and do it, because I promise you that you’re a beginner.

    By the fourth or fifth year, you might be ready to read, on the Christian side of things, the ethical treatment of Scripture by Albert Schweitzer or Karl Barth or either of the Niebuhr brothers or Paul Tillich or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Jurgen Moltmann or Thomas Oden or Stanley Hauerwas—I could go on and on and on listing right tall teachers who taught in right tall-towered universities and, lo and behold, found the basis for the building of a Christian ethic in those primitive documents about which you are so profoundly dismissive.

    I oft appreciate the columns you write—I like reading the thinking of the “indie” segment of the world of social/cultural/political commentary. But, while the argument you’re trying to make in this column might fly somewhere near “last call” at a local bar, it would get you laughed out off a room where serious discussions by serious scholars about serious ethical matters and how sacred texts speak to them were the order of the day.

    I’ve got to admit that I am surprised—the extent to which you speak about religion (even if it is almost always pejorative) might have led me to infer that you understood how religion functions at a far deeper level than you apparently do. And the lack of depth per your understanding of formative religious documents and how they function within a religious framework is damned near appalling for one who wishes to be taken seriously.

    • Where do I start? First, let me repeat again, that I am a secular agnostic leaning atheist. When you are discussing holding a “deeper” understanding about the functionality of institutionalized religion, I sense that you are coming at this from the perspective of someone who believes in one of the Abrahamic faiths. This is a common argument defenders of organized religion make. Religion is a mix of myth, poetry, and small traces of history. Yet, the problem comes from the institution of religion, and how taboo it is to criticize what the doctrines of these religions command its adherents to follow. These words are in the text, I didn’t “interpret” what the passages said. That is what the passages say. If you didn’t see it in the article, here is a link to where you can go and read these passages yourself.

      Understand that I am not criticizing religious people. I am criticizing the idea that religion is the center of human morality, and somehow we draw our morals from the scriptures of the Bible or Koran. The criticisms in the article are not exclusively mine, and have been made for decades by secular scholars, and many biblical historians. To say that “no one” will take my criticisms seriously is rather interesting to say, seeing as how these are not exclusively my critiques alone and that many in fact share in contempt of the religious doctrine’s ability to influence society and cause harm.

      Nearly half of Americans think that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. These same Americans also believe that souls arrive in the zygote at the moment of sexual conception, so we shouldn’t conduct embryonic stem-cell research. The soul of a zygote was more important than the soul of a man with Parkinson’s disease. These same Americans also want to make gay marriage illegal across the nation. I bet if you asked those same people, their opinions on execution of gays might be shocking. Science teachers are hampered from teaching science in their classrooms because of the mythological tale of Eden. These issues come from the doctrines of the religions themselves, therefore the logical conclusion should be to criticize the doctrines.

      What you are saying Rusty, if I am wrong correct me, that religion holds a deeper value (though I am amiss because this value is never fully stated). Of course I don’t know about the ins-and-outs mechanics of how organized religions function, because theology is not my background. I don’t have a religion. I don’t view the texts as sacred. I view no texts written by humans as “sacred”, unless you want to talk about sacred in relations to it being important literature. The Iliad and the Odyssey are “sacred” in that they give glimpses into the formation of early Western civilization, and reveal the complex nature of ancient Mediterranean religious beliefs. However, would we call the Iliad or Odyssey sacred in the sense of being connected to the divine? That is how the Bible is viewed though. If you believe that the Bible is the perfect word of god, than it is more than a piece of important literature. It is revered among all other texts, and is told by Institutions that its congregants should live their lives by these books.

      I am surprised that a man of your education can’t understand the logical connection between what the texts say, what the institutions command, and how this translates into behavior by the followers of the faith. Of course caveats are spun in, and there are sects that believe interpretations of the books and histories as this way or that way. When we discuss “institutions” we are discussing everything from the Vatican, to the Mega-Church Pastor in Dallas. The institution takes many forms and sects pop up all over. I get that one can also derive a sense of identity and self from religion, purpose and balance, I take Frank Sinatra’s view Rusty. Whatever it takes to get someone through the day, be it Jesus or Jack Daniels, go right ahead. But, understand that beliefs do have consequences enough to cause negative actions that affect the whole of a society.

      I speak about religion frequently because these texts have crucial importance in the tone and discourse of discussions in our society. I could not just hold an open debate about abortion rights in this country (or others) without expecting some amount of religious protesters to show up, as is their right. You can’t be a biology teacher in Tennessee and not expect some protest or backlash by a parent who wants mythology taught alongside science in a science classroom. These are real issues that matter, and not fodder for debate.

      I understand your angle, but it seems you continue not to see mine. My understanding of religious texts are as important pieces of literature. They may hold personal significance, but I do not view them as holy and feel they can be picked apart and criticized as with any other text in any other context. I do not believe that the scriptures are literally true, unlike hundreds of millions of believers across the world. The debate is about what is believed, not what should be believed. I am not criticizing the way religion should be, but the way it is.

Leave a Comment