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  • read that God actually comes to Noah afterwards

  • and he says, "Y'know the whole flood thing?

  • It might have been a big mistake!"

  • And he promises that he'll never do it again.

  • And that was another surprise: God has regrets.

  • Then we got to stories like Sodom and Gomorrah.

  • All I remembered about that story is

  • that they were these two sinful cities,

  • like Las Vegas and Reno or something,

  • and God got mad and wiped them out.

  • And Lot's wife looked back when

  • she was told not to and

  • she got turned into a pillar of salt.

  • But the nuns of my grade school

  • didn't explain to us

  • what happens right before they flee.

  • Right before they flee, Lot is visited by these two angels,

  • who are masquerading as two men,

  • and they come and stay overnight at his house.

  • And this mob forms outside and they yell,

  • "Send out those two angel-like men to us

  • so we can have sex with them!" And Lot yells "No!"

  • Which I think is a basic rule of hospitality:

  • don't give up your guests to be raped by the angry mob outside.

  • But then, what does he say next?

  • He says, "Why don't you take my daughters

  • and rape and do what you will with them? They're virgins!"

  • Okay, so Lot is evil, right? How is it that

  • the story we know about him is about

  • his wife getting turned into a pillar of salt?

  • Maybe that was her only way out.

  • Maybe being a big pillar of salt

  • is preferable to being married to Lot!

  • Anyway, after Lot and his two traumatized daughters

  • flee Sodom and Gomorra,

  • they all go to a cave in the mountains highed out.

  • And during the night, Lot's two daughters

  • get Lot drunk and then rape him.

  • Do they do this in revenge of what their father did to them?

  • No. The Bible says it's because

  • there aren't any other men around.

  • Even though, the Bible also says that

  • they're not that far from a city named Zoar.

  • So, I guess no men around for maybe a few miles?

  • And wait a minute, so Lot's two daughters

  • just had to drug and rape somebody?

  • And then I guess if you're their dad

  • and you're the only one there...

  • Okay, I knew the Bible had nutty stories, I mean, I knew there were nutty stories

  • but I don't know, I guess I thought they'd be wedged in

  • amongst an ocean of inspiration and history.

  • But instead, the stories just got darker

  • and even more convoluted.

  • This Old Testament God makes the grizzliest tests

  • of people's loyalty. Like when he asks Abraham

  • to murder his son, Isaac.

  • As a kid, we were taught to admire it.

  • I caught my breath reading it. We were taught to admire it?

  • What kind of sadistic test of loyalty is that,

  • to ask someone to kill his or her own child?

  • And isn't the proper answer,

  • "No! I will not kill my child, or any child,

  • even if it means eternal punishment in hell!"?

  • At the next Bible study class Father Tom reminded us,

  • "That Isaac represents what matters to Abraham most.

  • And that's what God asks us to give up for him."

  • I said, "But protecting and loving and

  • caring for the welfare of your child is

  • such a deep ethical, loving instinct and act.

  • So, what if what matters to you most is

  • your own loving behavior?

  • Should we be willing to give up our ethics for God?"

  • And he said, "No! Because your ethics,

  • because your ethics, your ethics IS your love and faith in God."

  • That confused me a little bit, but

  • I decided to just let that one go.

  • But then, I found out that Abraham is

  • not the only person willing to murder

  • his own child for God.

  • In the Bible, they're actually all over the place.

  • For example, in the book of Judges, this guy named Jephtheh

  • tells God that if he can win this battle,

  • he will kill the first person who greets him

  • when he comes home as a burnt offering.

  • And who is the first person he sees?

  • His only child, his beloved daughter,

  • who runs up to him playing with tambourines and singing.

  • "Hi daddy... what?"

  • And does God say,

  • "No, don't kill your only child as a burnt offering to me!"

  • Or even, "Jephtheh, who did you expect

  • to be the first person to greet you when you came home?"

  • No, it appears the most important point of this story is

  • that Jephtheh allows his beautiful daughter

  • to go off into the woods for two months

  • to mourn her virginity (I kept thinking, "Run! Run!")

  • before she comes back and he kills her...

  • by lighting her on fire.

  • Even if you leave aside

  • the creepy sacrifice-your-own-offspring stories,

  • the laws of the Old Testament were really hard to take.

  • Leviticus and Deuteronomy are filled with archaic,

  • just hard to imagine laws. Like if a man has sex with an animal,

  • both the man and the animal should be killed.

  • Which I could almost understand for the man, but the animal?

  • Because the animal was a willing participant?

  • Because now the animal's had the taste of human sex

  • and won't be satisfied without it?

  • Or my personal favorite law in the Bible:

  • in Deuteronomy, it says if you're a woman,

  • married to a man, who gets into a fight with another man,

  • and you try to help him out by grabbing onto the genitals

  • of his opponent, the Bible says

  • you immediately have to have your hand chopped off.

  • Even things that I thought were set in stone,

  • like literally set in stone, like the Ten Commandments,

  • were not. The Ten Commandments that

  • we are all most familiar with,

  • are these rules that God simply told Moses on Mt. Sinai,

  • without referring to them as commandments

  • and without even setting them in stone.

  • It's only later in Exodus,

  • when Moses goes back up to Mount Sinai,

  • that God then hands him a set of two tablets of stone

  • with these rules chiseled on them.

  • When Moses gets back down off the mountain,

  • he sees the people worshipping a golden calf,

  • and he has a tantrum and

  • he smashes the stones before he reads them.

  • So then Moses goes back up to Mt. Sinai and

  • God gives him another set of stone tablets,

  • and this is the first time at this point that

  • they are referred to as "The Commandments."

  • And they're chiseled into stone,

  • so you'd sort of think that

  • God must be pretty firm on the subject of commandments by now.

  • But the rules are significantly different than those other rules.

  • Like how all male children have to appear before God

  • three times a year (however that's supposed to be accomplished)

  • and how you shouldn't cook a baby goat in its mother's milk

  • and how every domestic animals'

  • first born male should be sacrificed.

  • But then the commandment goes on to say that

  • if you don't want to sacrifice your donkey's firstborn male,

  • you could go ahead and substitute a lamb's.

  • If you really needed to.

  • Some people think that without the Ten Commandments,

  • morality in society would be relative and wishy-washy.

  • But in the Bible morality is relative and wishy-washy.

  • In fact, it sure seems like

  • our modern morality is much more loving and humane

  • than the Bible's morality.

  • Well, Father Tom saw me outside of church

  • after Mass one Sunday. And he said,

  • "Julia, you know, you always look

  • so very sad in Bible Study class."

  • And I said, "I'm sorry Father, it's just that,

  • God is so offensive in the Bible.

  • Really, it's like he's bi-polar."

  • And he said, "Well, y'know, the Old Testament.

  • Just remember that the people

  • who wrote it were an ancient Bronze Age civilization.

  • I mean the stories are legends.

  • They're tales of trickery and deception that

  • were told around the campfire by sheiks

  • who made God impressive by their very ancient standards."

  • I said, "Oh. Wow. Looking at the Old Testament that way,

  • it actually makes a lot of sense now, Father.

  • Looking at the Old Testament that way is quite interesting.

  • But Homer was also an ancient Bronze Age