SHOULD WE BAN OR CENSOR THE BIBLE?
BY NORM R. ALLEN JR.
Conservatives all over the U.S. are demanding that certain books be banned. Such books include Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Beloved. In fact, practically all of the books they want to ban are centered around race, sexuality or gender identity. In Texas, Missouri, California and Tennessee book banning has been especially intense. Some of the book banners say they are only concerned with banning certain books for children in grades K-12.
However, progressives are fighting back. PEN America, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and other groups are fighting to end book banning. The Round Rock Black Parents Association near Austin, Texas has organized to defend the works of Black artists that frighten White conservative parents who feel uncomfortable discussing race.
No book should be banned or censored. However, if I were a book banner or a censor, the very first book I would go after would be the so-called Holy Bible. As Thomas Paine noted, the Bible is the most widely read and least examined book in the world. Yet even a cursory examination of the “sacred” text shows that it is filled with abominable, irrational, unscientific and dangerous ideas.
The Bible condones slavery, and slavery advocates had quoted the so-called Good Book in defense of slavery until slavery was eradicated in the West. As the great freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll noted in the 19th Century, “The Bible is the real auction block upon which the Negro stood during slavery.” In his essay “A Christmas Sermon,” Ingersoll persuasively argued that the Bible was quoted in every phase of the enslaved person’s life: from capture, to sale, during work and punishment, and so on. Several biblical passages backed up the slave master’s desire for control, including Colossians 3:22 and 1 Timothy 6:1–4.
Perhaps one might be inclined to argue that chattel slavery in the West is no longer legal, and that, therefore, Bible-sanctioned slavery is no longer a big deal.
Then let’s move on to something that is still a big deal, like genocide. The First or “Old” Testament God demands that his followers wipe out numerous peoples. In fact, if the Bible is completely true, Aaron, Joshua and Gideon were among the most immoral mass murderers of their day. Passages condoning genocide include Numbers 31:17–18 in which God commands his people to kill male infants and toddlers, but to kidnap and rape the women of their enemies.
That brings us to patriarchy, which is still a major problem. As early as Genesis, women are getting the short end of the stick. In Genesis 3:16 God dictates that husbands will rule over wives. And it just gets worse from there. In Ephesians 5:22 wives are commanded to submit to their husbands, and in other parts of the Second or “New” Testament, they are commanded to be silent in the churches.
Homophobia is still important today, and the Bible certainly has its share. Of course, the Bible was written by patriarchal men, so how could this be otherwise. Where there is patriarchy, rest assured, you will also find homophobia. In Leviticus 18:22, male-on-male sex is deemed an “abomination,” showing just how despicable it is supposed to be.
Many of these Bible-thumping morons are opposed to books with sexual themes. Yet, I could not imagine them trying to ban or censor the erotic Song of Solomon in the First Testament. Why are these censors and book banners so selective with their fake outrage?
If I were a censor or book banner I would go after stories like Noah’s Ark that not only “shock the mind of a child,” but do violence to common sense. It is bad enough that children are forced to believe something that is physically impossible (that all of the world’s animals could fit on a ship no bigger than the Queen Mary), but they have to believe that a perfectly good God decided to drown every sentient being on Earth (even innocent puppies, kittens, bunnies, and so forth. If God actually did this, he would have to be the most evil monster in the history of the world. After all, what could possibly be more evil than this?)No child should have to be exposed to this holy crap.
The Bible is filled with unscientific claims and this nonsense, like Bible-sanctioned patriarchy, begins in Genesis. In fact, the very first passage reads. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” This is demonstrably false. We know that the Earth was not created in the beginning. The universe is about 14 billion years old but the Earth is only about 4 billion years old. The Bible says that God later created the sun. However, we now know that stars come first, then planets. (By the way, Genesis 1:16 makes it clear that the biblical writers did not know that the sun is a star.) For people who are supposedly concerned that their children get a good education, they certainly are not outraged that their children are exposed to unscientific misinformation in the Bible.
What we are dealing with here is right-wing hypocrisy. These holier-than-thou conservatives try to take the moral high road, yet they oppose books that combat racism, while they embrace a religious book that condones slavery; they oppose books that combat patriarchy, yet they edify a holy book that promotes it; they oppose books that combat homophobia, but they embrace a sacred text that commands the death penalty for men who have sex with men.
We should not ban or censor the Bible. However, years ago, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sold Bible warning stickers to be placed on the front covers of Bibles. The message was that reading the Bible could be hazardous to the mental health of the reader. Today it would be a great idea to have stickers warning Bible readers of the book’s unsavory and irrational ideas. In other words, this would be a badly needed trigger warning.