Do gods exist? 26 Your parents

Picture adapted from Rembrant’s Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law

The fifth commandment of the Christian god is that you should honour your parents so that you will live longer and will not be stoned to death.

According to the Bible, the fifth commandment is

“Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land that God giveth thee.” (Ex 20:12, Deut 5:16)

So this law is based not on respect for your parents, but on the selfish desire to live longer. But why would honouring your parents cause you to live longer?

One obvious reason was that, if you were stubborn and rebellious, and you continuously refused to obey your parents, they would take you to the elders of the city, and all of the men of the city would stone you to death (Deut 21:18-21).

“21:18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city.

20 And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.”

A more subtle reason places the emphasis on the phrase “upon the land that God giveth thee.” If the tribe’s children learn to obey their parents, then the tribe will continue to obey the commandments, and in return the god will allow the tribe to remain in the promised land for longer.

This law does not foster loving, caring, mutually respectful family values. It commands unthinking obedience, regardless of right or wrong, under fear of being stoned to death.

For example, should the virgin daughters of Lot have honoured their father when a gang wanted to rape two of his guests, who were angels from God, and Lot offered the gang his daughters instead? (Gen 19:4-8)

“19:4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”

6 So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, 7 and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! 8 See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”

So that is commandment number five. I will examine the sixth commandment in my next post.

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Do gods exist? 26 Your parents

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