The Bible Deity and Abraham
by Joseph Lewis
from his book The Ten Commandments
Were we not quoting the words of one who is supposed to be the God of the universe, we would judge them to have been uttered by some braggadocio leader who was trying to impress his followers with the great deed he had performed.
If George Washington, the Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Army, had made a similar statement at the conclusion of our War for Independence, much of his value as a leader would have been lost.
Egotism and self-praise are not very commendable qualities. Accomplishments should speak for themselves. It is rarely necessary to make worthy deeds appreciated by boasting about them.
Does anyone really believe that if there is a God over this vast universe, he would be so small and petty as to make the egotistical statement which constitutes the first declaration of the Decalogue? Does anyone really believe that this is the most important message such a God could impart to the children of the earth to express his importance and as a manifestation of his power? Is it possible that there are those who believe these are the words of a God who is considered the Creator and Ruler of the universe, the Almighty One who is responsible for all that is?
These words are, however, an indication of the character of a tribal god, attesting to his primitive origin. They place him in an ignorant and superstitious age when deception and "sorcery" enabled the priest-magicians to dominate and enslave the primitive peoples over whom they ruled.
To determine the ethical and moral value of this Commandment, let us assume that the Bible God did free the Children of Israel from the yoke of Egyptian rule (though it might be asked why he permitted their enslavement in the first place). Why, then, did he permit them to become slaves under the yoke of the Romans? Was slavery under one tyrant more desirable than under another?
While he was setting the Hebrews at liberty, why did he not free others who were held in bondage? Was freeing of the Children of Israel the most important problem in the world at that time? The Hebrews were not the only people who were slaves. Were not the other enslaved peoples equally deserving of liberation? Is not slavery itself an obnoxious institution, and are not all peoples worthy of freedom? Slavery at that time was a universal institution. Enslaved humanity under brutal tyrants everywhere filled the air with cries of agony and despair Why was he so partial to the Hebrews? If this God was omnipotent, there is no question as to his ability to perform the task. If he could and he did not, he deserves the sternest condemnation.
Would not the little knowledge that we have today, acquired after thousands of years of struggle with the forces of nature, have been of more benefit to mankind than the exodus of an insignificant tribe of people? Think of the great progress that would have been made if this God had shown the people how to construct the printing press, the automobile, the electric light, the motion picture, the electric dynamo or the X-ray machine, or to produce anesthesia, or had revealed the secrets of radium, or any one of the hundreds of inventions and discoveries that man has used so advantageously to liberate himself from physical pain and to cure the ills to which flesh is heir. Why, in his first statement to the people of the earth, did not this God reveal the laws that govern nature, and the formulas by which the materials of the earth could be used? The Bible does not contain even the basic law of the earth upon which we live -- the law of gravitation.
While we are speaking of the liberation of the Hebrews from bondage, it will not be irrelevant to mention Abraham Lincoln's efforts to free the Negro slaves in this country. By way of comparison, Lincoln's task was just as arduous as that of the God of Israel; in fact, it was more so, for Lincoln was only a common mortal. He had to combat others stronger than himself. He also had to fight in the open against the invisible foes of racial, political and social prejudices. He had to fight the Bible's own pronouncement that slavery existed by divine approval. In support of the institution of slavery, ministers of religion consistently quoted scriptural edicts, such as Leviticus, Chapter 25, verses 44 to 46:
44. Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
45. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.
46. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigor.
Ministers also quoted Timothy, Chapter 6, verse 1:
1. Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.
These Biblical quotations were flung in the face of Lincoln to justify the enslavement of human beings.
Lincoln was far superior to the God of Israel in this respect: his task was more difficult and his accomplishments far greater. But more important still, and far more valuable than his deeds, was his character. He did not boast of his accomplishments. He wanted no credit other than to know that he had freed human beings from the shackles of slavery.
Nor did he demand adoration and worship. His compensation was the satisfaction of destroying the most vicious institution that ever cursed human society, although it had Biblical sanction. And Lincoln did not pose before his liberated Negroes with this statement: "I am Lincoln, your Emancipator, who freed you from your masters and liberated you from the shackles of bondage."
Nor was Lincoln a Negro. The slaves were not "his" people. He was not bound to them by ties of blood. He did his work purely for the love of humanity. No member of the human race was a stepchild to him. He did not flatter them by calling them his "chosen people." His passion was the principle of freedom for all mankind.
Lincoln said that this nation could not remain half slave and half free, and so he set about to make all free. The Bible Deity's performance dwindles into insignificance when compared with that of the Great Emancipator. Certainly, if Lincoln could free the Negro slaves in the United States of America, a God of the universe should have been able to abolish slavery throughout the earth.
If the Bible God had abolished slavery completely, the bloody sacrifice of the Civil War would not have been necessary. When Lincoln freed the Negroes, he did not in turn permit them to enslave others; whereas the Bible Deity sanctioned the barter and sale of human beings.
These Bible laws, presumably with divine approval, established to God's
eternal infamy the property right in man, with all the heartrending misery
that slavery has brought upon the earth. Consider the intellectual and
moral progress that would have resulted had slavery never existed.