It’s Silly To Base Morality On The Bible

And I’m sick of pretending otherwise.

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

I’m going to Hell.

It’s okay! Don’t pray for me, please. I have fully accepted my fate. If there is a Hell (as in, the fire-and-brimstone-eternal-torture-porn-devil version of Hell), then I have absolutely booked myself a one-way direct flight to Satan’s front door.

Shall we go through the checklist? I’m gay. I don’t believe in any higher power. I’m a liberal. I believe in science. I party on Saturday. I’m proud. I’ve had sex before marriage. I’m not repentant or shameful. And, Jesus fucking Christ, do I take the Lord’s name in vain.

I’m just one big ol’ faggy sinner, aren’t I?

But here’s the thing — I’m a good person. A moral, upstanding honest person who tries his best every day to be good to the people around me. I would do anything for the people I love. I haven’t eaten the body of an animal since I was ten. I treat others with kindness, respect, and acceptance, regardless of my relation to them.

But none of that matters. I’m still going to Hell.

At least, according to the general perceptions of many individuals, who have used religious texts not only as the basis of their lifestyle, but as the basis of their moral convictions.

Our society believes religious people are more virtuous by default

Think of the many, many ways our society has normalized the correlation between religion and virtue.

Our presidents swear in on a Bible. So do our witnesses. We get married in chapels. The Ten Commandments are posted outside buildings. Churches are considered moral sanctuaries. Before doing something, we ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” If someone is nice, we call them a saint. If they’re kind and motherly, we call them a ‘good Christian woman’.

I’m talking about Christianity here, since it is the religion I was raised in and the dominant social group in the USA. But this mindset applies to most religions and most countries in the world too: religious people = good people.

By contrast, atheists are seen as amoral, devious creatures. According to a 2017 study, people across the world believe that extremely evil actions, like serial killing, are likely to be committed by atheists. The study’s authors go as far to say, “the recent rise in secularism in Western countries has not overwritten intuitive anti-atheist prejudice.”

This happens to me all the time. I love writing about and promoting my queer and atheist identity — it’s important to continue the fight for equality and remain visible for those stuck in the closet. Doesn’t matter my goals — I’ve been called a sinner too many times to count, even on a seemingly open-minded platform like Medium.

In reality, all of these heuristic judgments of other people are profoundly incorrect. Religious people, according to empirical evidence, are not more virtuous or moral than non-religious. At all.

But that doesn’t stop some people from weaponizing the Bible against others.

You only need to have a basic understanding of world history to see that religious texts can be wielded as easily as a sword. The Crusades. The Spanish Inquisition. Salem Witch Trials. 9/11. The genocide of Native Americans. The Muslim Conquests. The KKK. The Armenian Genocide. The list continues.

“We are a Christian organization,” — Frank Ancona, the imperial wizard of the Traditional American Knights of the KKK

Of course, a religious basis is not the only cause of these conflicts — each one is a unique blend of xenophobia, racism, cruelty, and war crimes. But the perpetrators of these horrific acts typically believed their respective religions justified their actions. These evil men derived morality from their religion.

It’s not just history — Christianity can be warped into supporting basically anything, including a life of crime. A 2012 study argues that many long-term criminal’s religious beliefs were used to justify a life of crime.

“Our results indicate that religion may have a counterintuitive criminogenic effect in certain contexts. . .These offenders actively referenced religious doctrine to justify past offenses and to excuse the continuation of serious criminal conduct.”— Topalli, Brezina, & Bernhardt

I would like to make it very clear that I do not believe that criminals or prisoners are inherently amoral. Many illegal actions are not amoral, like ingesting certain drugs or stealing to support a family. Crime is incredibly complex and multi-faceted, and we must consider the home situations of those who partake in illegal actions. My point is not that criminals are amoral, but that religious doctrine can lead someone to break the law, which often correlates with amoral behavior.

But my favorite example of the Bible being twisted to support something crazy is of a certain viral video regarding Monster energy drink. It’s absolutely wild. A must-watch really.

And yes, this woman’s claims are bizarre and wacky and downright insane! Yes, her words sound like lunacy. But they’re also supported by Scripture. She cites Revelation 13 and Philippians 4 of the New Testament. If we believe the Bible is the source of moral reasoning, then yes, this woman is possibly valid in her conspiracy.

This is not just a theoretical conversation for me. I’ve met this woman. Her name is Christine Weick and she called me a fag. She was protesting marriage equality outside of the Capitol building back in 2014 when I came across her. When two counter-protestors kissed, both of them women, she pretended to throw up. Christine was determined to do anything within her power to prevent gay people from having equal rights and national acceptance.

But here’s the thing — The Bible doesn’t condemn her, it empowers her.

Gay marriage is wrong? Matthew 19. Gay people are evil? Leviticus 18. God is using her as an agent to defend marriage? Philippians 4. Every single one of her actions is supported by the Bible, as she so hatefully explained to be outside of the Capitol building that day.

You only need to have a basic understanding of world history to see that religious texts can be wielded as easily as a sword.

But she is a fringe Christian! — you may be thinking — she doesn’t represent real Christians like me! And yes, in some ways she is a fringe Christian, as in she doesn’t represent the everyday person who follows Jesus Christ.

But what makes your interpretation of the Bible more valid than hers? Who gives you the right to determine which quotations in the Bible we should follow?

That’s the problem with deriving morality from religion — religious texts are so dense and complex that literally ANY moral statement can be made from them. The Bible is 600,000 words long, has been translated and re-translated from multiple languages, and has survived in different forms from different authors. Anyone could pick it up, find a quote that suits them, and justify literally any moral action.

If the Bible can be manipulated to support any morality, any agenda, then it is not a valid source of moral reasoning.

I see this thinking every day. When a bigot disowns their son for loving another man. When a politician strips women of their rights. When a woman is slut-shamed. When a church avoids paying taxes. When a bishop rapes a child. Every single goddam time I’m called a fag.

Of course, Christians are not a monolith. Many Christians use the Bible to preach love and acceptance. Many Christians are inspired by the Bible to educate others, donate to charity, volunteer, or commit random acts of kindness. I have Christian friends to use the Bible as

My point is not that Christians are inherently evil. That’s prejudiced and incorrect. My point is that the Bible enables Christians to be anything — evil, good, or, most likely, some combination of the two.

It’s silly to use a religious text to create moral judgments of other people. It’s silly to use a religious text to morally justify your words, actions, and lifestyle. It’s silly to use an ancient book written by a group of men 2000 years ago as the sole source of your morality.

And I’m sick of pretending otherwise.

So what? We should live in amoral anarchy?

No. Of course not. A world devoid of religious-based morality is not the same as a world without morality.

What? Do you think if we remove the Ten Commandments everyone will suddenly go on a killing spree?

Looking at empirical psychology research, we can see that children as young as five will develop a sense of fairness and share with other children when given the chance. Humans are predisposed to be kind — we feel good after expressing gratitude or committing random acts of kindness. Regardless of religious background. Regardless of exposure to the Bible.

Removing religion as a basis for morality doesn’t remove morality itself. It expands it.

If you are a Christian who believes yourself to be a good person, I would look inwards and examine the source of your morality. From a book handed to you when you were a child? Or your own innate sense of fairness, equality, and mutual respect?

If the Bible can be manipulated to support any morality, any agenda, then it is not a valid source of moral reasoning.

I’m not going to write here in my ivory tower and pretend that I’ve solved life’s biggest questions — What is good? What is evil? I’m not a philosopher. I’m a person who does my absolute best to oppose oppression, prejudice, animal cruelty, and malice in all of its forms.

I’m a work in progress — we all are. I fuck up. If you think my actions aren’t moral or just, that’s a valid conversation to have.

Just don’t base your moral judgments on a book too dense to re-read.

A queer, herbivorous, leftist Viking. I write about society, justice, and popular media. UChicago grad. Based in Iceland.

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