Of course it is. The reason I ask though, is that one might not immediately discern that from looking at those ancient pillars of morality, the Ten Commandments. Let’s look at them.
Interesting. Now, these are not necessarily listed in order of importance, but I find it fascinating that killing comes in at a pedestrian 6th, with the first 4 being related to God’s insatiable desire to be worshipped, feared and believed in. But I digress. The only way that prohibition of rape could really be drawn out of this is that in the final commandment, which in full reads (from Exodus 20:17):
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
That is, “you shouldn’t rape someone, because she belongs to someone else”. Any confusion is cleared up in Deuteronomy 22, where we learn that rapists should be stoned to death for violating their neighbour’s property rights. Finally some justice? Well, no, because in this charming story, the victim is also condemned to be stoned for not crying out for help. Shame on her. But where does this leave unowned women? That is also revealed, again in Deuteronomy 22, where we are told that a man who rapes an unmarried/unbetrothed woman is required to pay 50 skelels of silver to the father, and marry her. A true victory for women everywhere.
In fairness, there are probably passages in the bible that do condemn rape, which is inevitable in a book with so many contradictions. But should they be cherry picked? If you like, but one should consider that as the almanac of morality for Christians, you would hope that the bible contains some agreeable moral statements. It’s the outrageous ones that need a bit more explaining.
Now before we get ahead of ourselves, I should acknowledge that the commandments as outlined in the Old Testament are not the polished version you see above. Firstly, the biblical version is not conveniently listed, but much more drawn out. Secondly, as with almost everything else in the bible, there have been countless revisions and reinterpretations, not to mention translations upon translations that may have corrupted the original documents.
“But surely, no one thinks that rape is moral, just because it isn’t in the Ten Commandments” I hear you chime. Well, that may be the case for the majority of Christians nowadays (though I wouldn’t want to guess what the Westboro Baptist Church has to say about the matter), but certainly over history, women have been treated less than civilly because of religious doctrine. And just think, homosexuals being cursed as an abomination unto the Lord are still experiencing the same egregious treatment that women suffered for centuries at the hand of biblical literalism, although one feels that the tide is finally turning.
Today, most Christians, including the clergy, adopt an ‘interpretive’ approach, choosing to ignore the sexist parts (and any other parts) of the bible that they don’t like, whilst still endorsing the parts they agree with (this is certainly the case with the Christian opposition to homosexuality). However, the fact that Christians don’t subscribe to every ridiculous and outrageous claim in the bible is a credit to secularism, rather than the religion.
The reality is that if you are Christian, then you surely support at least some of the bible’s teachings, which is supposed to be the inerrant word of God, who is supposed to set the standard of morality for everyone. If your response is that the bible was written by fallible people (men) in a totally different time, place and cultural setting, you should ask yourself why God decided to give them one standard of morality, and you another. Did he change his mind?
But hang on, didn’t I just say that the bible has been revised, reinterpreted, translated and generally hacked at for centuries? Yes, I suppose I did. Maybe God isn’t to blame after all; maybe it is just his pious believers, keen to impose their own moral views onto others. If this is true, then let us thank God, for allowing secularism and reason to rise up and quash his various earthly representatives.
I apologise in advanced to any Christians whom I have offended, because that is not really my intention. I am aware that the majority of Christians probably haven’t given much thought to the nasty things in the bible, or the things done in it’s name. That’s because church sermons, Sunday school, and the majority of religious education (indoctrination) is focused on the nice, warm, fuzzy things that people can agree with.
Let’s see, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) – who could argue with that? What about “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (Timothy 2: 11-12) – Hmm. Wait, what? Watching a Christian apologist scurry to ‘interpret’ quotes like this is quite entertaining, but taking an interpretive approach is really all they can do in a progressive society, short of flat out ignoring them. Needless to say, one doesn’t have to look too far back in history to see a more strict application of the bible.
Before I finish, I should mention that the problems I’ve mentioned are not solely the specialty of Christian doctrine, but that is a topic for another post. I chose to write about Christianity first because it is probably the religion that anyone reading this blog is most familiar with. Rest assured, the sexism of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and many other religions shall be discussed another time. For now though, stay classy God.