Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Yahweh And Abortion

The following is from the Yahoo group, Xianity, March 2014. My comments are in blue:

Till's point is well taken, that the stance taken by the Hebrew/Christian god Yahweh in the OT is contrary to what fundamentalist Christians believe about abortion. Exodus 21:22 is noteworthy because it is a law given to the Israelites BY Yahweh, that if a pregnant woman is accidentally injured when two men are fighting has a miscarriage as a result, the penalty for such depends on whether the fetus is developed enough to survive. If the fetus is "imperfectly formed", i.e., not viable outside the womb then only a fine is levied. But if the fetus is "perfectly formed", i.e, viable outside the womb then, depending on the severity of the injury, "he shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." (Septuagint).

Till accurately sums up the situation in the following quote from the article:

"In other words, the law was apparently recognizing the difference in the death of an unborn child in the early stages of pregnancy, when it had not had time to form "perfectly," and the death of one in the later stages of pregnancy, when it had had time to form perfectly. The way this law was worded seemed to recognize a difference in the importance of an embryo that had not yet taken human form and one that had. An injury that caused the death of the former was punishable by just a fine, but an injury that caused the death of the latter called for imposition of the eye-for-an-eye-law or, in other words, imposition of the death penalty. This passage, then, certainly is not friendly to the often heard pro-life view that abortion at any stage of pregnancy is the same as murdering a person, because Hebrew law, which fundamentalist Christians believe was God's law, extracted a lesser penalty for the killing of an embryo in its early stages than was extracted for the killing of an embryo that had advanced far enough to be fully formed. One could say, then, that this law was consistent with modern court rulings that allow abortions in the early stages of pregnancy but restrict them in the latter stages."

The trial by ordeal of a woman who is suspected of infidelity is also particularly telling concerning the Yahweh of the OT for his uncaring attitude toward a fetus in such a situation. Of all the ways that he could have chosen to show the guilt or innocence of an accused wife, he chose a barbaric ritual common to other primitive people who were neighbors of the Israelites. One in which, if such rituals actually happened, caused the deaths of untold numbers of fetuses at all levels of maturity. The procedure is found in Numbers 5:11-31. Till's comments from the article, again, are accurate:

"This passage describes a trial by ordealwhich was a primitive way of determining guilt or innocence. As the article linked to explains, this type of "judgment" usually involved fire or water. An accused person, for example, would have to walk through fire or retrieve a stone from boiling water or experience some similar trial. If the "ordeal" caused no injury or just slight injury or if the injuries healed quickly, the accused was judged to be innocent. Otherwise, he was considered guilty. The premise of the trial by ordeal was a superstitious belief that the gods would protect the innocent from harm during trials by ordeal. That the Bible contains an example of trial by ordeal commanded by the Hebrew god Yahweh should be proof to rational people that it is not the inspired, inerrant 'word' of an all-knowing, loving, merciful deity but is instead a collection of writings that simply reflected the beliefs of the primitive, superstitious times in which it was written. Enlightened people today would understand that the reaction of women to a trial by ordeal like the one described above would depend on the individual strengths and weaknesses of their immunity systems and not on their actual guilt or innocence. No doubt, many innocent wives were condemned by the results of this trial by ordeal, and likewise many guilty wives with stronger immune systems were "exonerated" by it. Christians today, then, who demand that "biblical principles" be imposed on society at large, are really crusading to turn the clock back to a time when morality was determined by cultural superstitions and taboos rather than by rational considerations.

Be that as it may, the passage quoted above described a trial by ordeal that women had to submit to when their husbands suspected unverifiable infidelity. This particular ordeal required the suspects to drink a "water of bitterness" that was concocted by mixing "holy water" with dirt from the tabernacle floor. As the ordeal was described, some women would experience 'bitter pain,' 'discharge from the womb,' and a dropping of the uterus. Of course, those who experienced such effects were 'determined' to be guilty of the infidelity of which their husbands had accused them. As noted above, any rational person would know that grievous effects like those described in the trial by ordeal could in no way determine actual guilt. That, however, is irrelevant to the reason why I introduced this passage into the controversy. We could imagine that over the course of the centuries that the Hebrew culture existed, this trial by ordeal was used many times when men suspected that their wives were guilty of infidelity. We could also imagine that in at least some of those cases, the accused wives were pregnant, either from sexual intercourse with their husbands or from the adulterous relationships they had been accused of, so just think seriously and, if possible, unemotionally for a moment. If pregnant women were subjected to an ordeal that could cause 'bitter [abdominal] pain' or 'discharge from the womb' or a fallen uterus, they would surely have aborted the fetuses they were carrying. If, then, abortion is the horribly immoral act that Christians believe their god is so opposed to, why would he ever have commanded a trial by ordeal that would have resulted in the abortion of at least some unborn children?"

The Yahweh of the OT didn't seem to be too concerned about children outside the womb either, evidenced by his orders to kill all the children, even babies of the Amalekites and Midianites (except of course the young virgin girls of the Midianites. They were to be saved for the pleasure of the Israelite men)--not to mention the innocents who would have been drowned in the alleged flood. Yahweh, what a sweetheart, certainly a God who is merciful and full of compassion!


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