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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Literal Lunacy

Not enough people, especially religious fundamentalists, have read Mark Twain's "Letters from the Earth." It's not long, only about 45 pages (don't be fooled, it's in a collection of various writings called "Letters from the Earth," but the actual work makes up less than a quarter of the book by the same name).

In it, Twain ridicules God and the Bible like nobody's business. He points out how incredibly mean and cruel the Old Testament is. He points out, for example, that God "has one code of morals for himself, and quite another for his children. He requires his children to deal justly-and gently-with offenders, and forgive them seventy-and-seven times; whereas he deals neither justly nor gently with anyone."

Later, Twain point out that "these people's God has shown them by a million acts that he respects none of the Bible's statutes."

Pretty courageous points to make.

I point this out in response to Miss Beverly Hills 2010 Lauren Ashley, the latest in an embarrassingly long line of Biblical literalists. She makes former Miss California Carrie Prejean look like a pillar of hedonism.

Ashley reportedly told Fox News that "In Leviticus it says: 'If a man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them.'

"The Bible is pretty black and white."

Okay. Let's take a look at the black and white of the Bible. In the same book of the Bible quoted by Ms. Ashley, there are detailed instructions for the ritualistic slaughter of animals. Try any of this today and you'd be looking at animal cruelty charges before the sun goes down.

The Bible approves selling daughters into slavery (Exodus 21:7), putting children to death for cursing their parents (Exodus 21:17), putting adulterers to death (Leviticus 20:10), community stoning of blasphemers (Leviticus 24:16), and community stoning to death of stubborn and rebellious children (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

The punishment for failing to carry out "all" of the commands of the Old Testament is laid out in Leviticus 26:14-46. Now that's the God of Love right there.

Look, you can either believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible or not, and if you do believe in a totally literal interpretation of the Bible you're so far beyond insane nobody can help you. But you can't pick and choose which verses you think are literal and which verses are figurative.

So if Miss Beverly Hills 2010 thinks the Bible is "pretty black and white," she better refrain from wearing clothing consisting of more than one kind of material (Leviticus 19:19), eat only well-done steak (Leviticus 19:26), and approve of the act of breaking a calf's neck for every unsolved murder (Deuteronomy 21:1-9), among other ridiculous commands.

As Mr. Clemens so aptly put it, "many of these people have the reasoning faculty, but no one uses it in religious matters."

Some things will never change.

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