Ironically, one of the things about Christianity that is most troubling to me is the Bible, particularly the Old Testament and its sheer brutality. Much of the brutality is directed at women, and at least twice, women are offered to vicious mobs as something of a sacrificial offering.
The most well know is the story of Lot and the visiting angels.
1 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”
“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” 3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” (Genesis 19.1-8)
We know it gets more sorted: Lot’s daughters get him intoxicated and then seduce him.
It’s difficult to imagine a reasonable explanation for all of this. After all, Lot was considered a generally righteous man:
and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— (2 Peter 2:7-8)
Righteous indeed: were anyone to make such an offer today, we would rightfully condemn him as shockingly evil. And yet St. Peter calls him righteous.
A lesser known but similar incident is recorded in Judges 19:
22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”
23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this disgraceful thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don’t do such a disgraceful thing.”
25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.
27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.
29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it said, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Think about it! Consider it! Tell us what to do!” (Judges 19.22-30)
This sounds bad enough already, but then Judges 20 continues the story:
1 Then all the Israelites from Dan to Beersheba and from the land of Gilead came out as one man and assembled before the LORD in Mizpah. 2 The leaders of all the people of the tribes of Israel took their places in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand soldiers armed with swords. 3 (The Benjamites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah.) Then the Israelites said, “Tell us how this awful thing happened.”
4 So the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, said, “I and my concubine came to Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night. 5 During the night the men of Gibeah came after me and surrounded the house, intending to kill me. They raped my concubine, and she died. 6 I took my concubine, cut her into pieces and sent one piece to each region of Israel’s inheritance, because they committed this lewd and disgraceful act in Israel. 7 Now, all you Israelites, speak up and give your verdict.” (Judges 2. 1-7)
He conveniently left out a few details, but it was enough to encourage the Israelites to make war against the Benjamites. In the end, 28,030 Israelites and 25,100 Benjamites died. The inhabitants of Gibeah seem to have been slaughtered, and as the Israelites chased the remaining Benjamite solders into the desert, the Israelites “went back to Benjamin and put all the towns to the sword, including the animals and everything else they found. All the towns they came across they set on fire” (Judges 20.48).
The amount of sheer immorality in this account is staggering: the misogyny of the Levite and his concubine’s father, the lie the Levite tells the Israelites to incite them to war, the incredible carnage of the war, and war crimes against the civilians.
I’ll write about more of my objections later, but this is a good enough start. Let the apologetics begin.
All images are in the public domain, retrieved from WikiMeadia Commons.