The Bible: The Bad Parts


A friend asked recently about which Bible verses are used to justify evil. I first met this friend, more than twenty years ago, in the Christian cult in which we were both living at the time. He left long before me and provided a home to my wife and I when we first moved out of the cult, who left us with nothing.

I have in the past written about some of the good things hidden in the Bible:

This is a selection of some favourite verses of mine in response to his question about the parts of the Bible used for evil. I ignored much of the genocidal parts of the Bible to focus on the parts I see used for evil in modern Christianity.

Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

This verse has been used to deny abortions to women, to deny them control of their own bodies and lives, and to abuse women using women's health centres. Even used to justify the murder of doctors.

Exodus 22:18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Numbers 5:11-31, the ordeal of the bitter water, is pretty straightforwardly evil without having to be used to justify evil. Inducing a miscarriage, through ingesting particular bitter herbs, to tell if a woman has been unfaithful.

Matthew 10:35-36 was used by a certain cult to justify isolating people from their family.
For I have come to turn
‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
Matthew 5:18 is a verse responsible for great evil. Used by Christians to justify applying whatever their awful reading of the old testament tells them.
For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Obviously the clobber verses used to attack gay people and justify homophobia.
  1. Sodom & Gomorrah Genesis 19:1-38
  2. Levitical Laws Leviticus 18:22; 20:13
  3. Pederasty in Corinth 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
  4. Pederasty in Ephesus 1 Timothy 1:9-10
  5. Strange Flesh Jude 6-7
  6. Cult Prostitution Romans 1:25-27
Genesis 1:26-28 is used to justify environmental destruction (dominion over the earth) and transphobia and the most awful misunderstanding of gender:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over [all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
2 Timothy 3:16 (the other 3:16) is used to justify the ridiculous idea of biblical inerrancy and the most evil repressive and judgemental morality.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
Chapter 21 and verse one of the Apocalypse of John tells Christians there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Which they use to justify not caring about this earth.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
I reckon that book, the Apocalypse of John, has sent more people mad than any other book in history.

An unmarried woman could be compelled to marry her rapist, as long as the rapist could pay the standard bride price and the woman’s father was comfortable with the marriage (Deuteronomy 22:28–29). Polygyny (a man having multiple wives at the same time) was not condemned, but was an accepted and legal custom (Deuteronomy 21:15–17; Genesis 4:19–24; and 2 Samuel 3:2–5). A woman’s religious vow could be nullified by her father or her husband (Numbers 30:3–15). And the assumption of the text is that the priesthood is all male (Leviticus 21).

(This passage was by Christopher Rollstone)

[1 Timothy 2] begins by stating that “men should pray” (and the word used here for men is andras, a gendered word that refers only to males) and then says “women should dress themselves modestly and decently” (vv. 8–9). So men are to pray, and women are to dress modestly. That’s quite a contrast. But there’s more: “Let a woman learn in silence and full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to be silent” (vv. 11–12). The author’s rationale: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (vv. 13–14). According to this text, women were to be silent in worship gatherings (and men were certainly not told to be silent), and the rationale for this mandate is that woman (Eve) was created second and sinned first. And the final blow is this: A woman “will be saved” (the future tense of the standard word for “be saved,” “be given salvation”) “through childbirth if she remains in faith and love and sanctification with modesty” (1 Timothy 2:15).

(Also by Christopher Rollstone. Some of the verses of the New Testament used by Christians to justify the oppression of women. Twice the Pauline writer says "I do not permit women to speak." Also see "the husband is the head of the woman", "wives submit to your husbands" etc.)

Colossians 3:22 is a classic of course.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.
Interestingly there's no verse in the New Testament saying that people can't have multiple wives or husbands. Just a lone verse saying you shouldn't be a church leader if you have more than one wife. There's no verse in the New Testament condemning sex outside of marriage or before marriage, just a blanket ban on sexual immorality (which we now understand to mean consent violation).

1 Corinthians 7:4-5 was used to justify marital rape
The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
And as for the parenting techniques that come from the Bible, old testament and new, well... spare the rod and spoil the child (Proverbs 13:24). How much abuse is that verse responsible for alone?

The doctrine of original sin is responsible for so much of the evil and cruelty of Christianity.

Romans 5:12
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.
By teaching that our basic nature is evil we're taught to hate ourselves and to be ashamed of who we are. If you believe other people's nature is evil you can be very cruel and tell yourself you're doing good.

We're not evil, we're good and we're learning and we've always been good and learning.

Here's a better version of original sin:

Everyone is fucked up because we're born into a fucked up world. So it isn't our fault but we still have to deal with the mess.

"If tolerance tolerates intolerance it is no longer tolerance but becomes intolerance."

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