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2013-03-27

Leviticus 19:17-18 is good as advice to be generally followed, but pretty dangerous if it is to be made law. The first part is literal nonsense. Those who pride themselves on taking a literal interpretation of the bible shouldnít be so proud. First of all, literally, this commandment only prevents hate for oneís brother and bearing grudges against the offspring of fellow tribesmen. Thus, hating the children and seeking revenge from your brother is a-okay since God said just the reverse. Furthermore, this commandment says that you are not to have hate in your heart, and since the heart is a muscle that pumps blood, incapable of emotion, the entire commandment is moot.

Of course, there are more than just biblical literalists, so how does this affect more rational folks who try to follow the spirit of Godís law rather than the letter? Well, if we ignore that all of these demands for good behavior only apply to kinsmen, we can assume that God is telling us not to hold grudges but swiftly resolve our conflicts, to not seek revenge against anyone, and to treat others with respect and dignity. For the most part, Iím on board with all that, but it still does nothing to explain how we should react to people who wrong us. Should a victim of rape not seek revenge against their rapist? Should the child of a murdered parent not have hate for the murderer?

This doesnít change much even if you take the more recent approach of Jesus who said to love your enemy, itís just as nebulous, only from a positive perspective. Does loving your rapist mean that you should send them to prison or forgive them and let them go free? If someone is about to murder you, do you love them by letting them murder you, or do you murder them first?

 

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Anonymous writes:

 

Hurray, Leviticus 19:18!

This is actually noteworthy, and I'm almost surprised you didn't cover it. This is an example of the Golden Rule, phrased in present times as "Treat others as you would wish to be treated."

The Golden Rule has been around for over two thousand years in one form or another, perhaps even as far back as 2040 BCE when it was phrased, "Now this is the command: Do to the doer to cause that he do thus to you."

All variants of the Golden Rule prior to Leviticus 19:18 are phrased in the negative, emphasizing consequence. Leviticus, despite having a buttload of negativity otherwise, is the first example in recorded history (that we know of) to phrase the Golden Rule in the positive: "Love your neighbor as you would yourself." No consequences, no reciprocation, just "Be as good to them as you would be to yourself."

This is actually noteworthy. This could have meant something huge. This could have been a pivotal moment in history.

Too bad it falls on deaf ears, as Deuteronomy will eventually prove in spades ("neighbors? more like VICTIMS, nyuk nyuk nyuk")...

For more examples of the Golden Rule, consult your friendly neighborhood installation of Professor Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule

Dysania writes:

 

No, from the moral perspective you shouldn't seek revenge or hate anybody; it doesn't benefit anyone. Instead you should seek justice and self-preservation. Of course, it's pretty ridiculous to talk about justice and morality when we are simply bags of meat that do what we are programmed to do, but I can't find better words to mean a way of thinking that allows the humanity to survive another year.

TheAlmightyGuru writes:

 

@Dysania: As a naturalist and determinist, I agree that humans are bags of programmed meat, however, I don't think that necessarily means it's ridiculous to talk about justice and morality. I see justice and morality as emergent properties (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence) in a sufficiently complicated ordering of meat. To give an example, it's ridiculous to talk about playing chess with light switches, but make those switches microscopic and add a few trillion more of them, and you've got a computer that can routinely beat the world's best human chess players.


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Oh the irony!