An Atheist’s Guide to the Book of Leviticus November 2, 2015

An Atheist’s Guide to the Book of Leviticus

Maybe you’ve always wanted to read the Bible, except it’s really long and not very interesting, and you’d just prefer the abridged atheist version.

That’s what C. B. Brooks MD has created with The Nonbeliever’s Guide to Bible Stories (Pitchstone Publishing, 2015):

In the excerpt below, Brooks gives us a taste of the Book of Leviticus:

You won’t hear many heartwarming stories from this book of the Bible. In fact, it should make any halfway reasonable person question the premise that the Bible is divinely inspired.

Leviticus is a laundry list of God telling Moses more rules and instructions for living. Important things like exactly how to perform burnt offerings, sin offerings, guilt offerings, peace offerings, even cereal offerings. How to choose and flay an animal for sacrifice, ring off a turtledove’s head, prepare goat entrails, sprinkle blood. If you can’t afford a lamb, two young pigeons may be substituted. Also lengthy discussions of which animals to sacrifice to atone for which sins. More rituals for a yearly day of atonement are described. This event is still commemorated by Jews on the tenth day of the seventh month and is known as Yom Kippor.

Clean versus Unclean

Then we hear how the priests will determine what’s clean or unclean. Women: unclean for seven days during menstruation and of course anyone who touches her during that time is contaminated. Men: unclean after emitting semen, until a bath that night. Animals: no eating unclean beasts like swine, camel, hare, or the rock badger. If you touch a carcass of these you’ll become unclean. Sea creatures with fins or scales are okay but anything else is an abomination. Birds, insects, swarming things also are abominations. Too bad for the eagle, owl, stork, mouse, weasel, and gecko. But there is some good news, you can eat winged insects that have four feet. Yum.

Disease Management

Human afflictions are also categorized as clean or unclean. Some burns and baldness can be clean. But leprosy, pus drainage, and most itching diseases are unclean and need special sacrifices.

Bad Sex and Gays

Next we are told which sexual relationships are forbidden. The usual ones like incest are banned. The modern-day religious denunciation of homosexuality comes from this passage: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination. And the penalty is death by stoning for both partners.”

Odds and Ends

Here are some other tidbits: Don’t burn your children as sacrifices to other gods. Don’t cut the hair on your temples or trim your beard. (This is the reason you see Orthodox Jews with curly sideburns, beards, and hats.) Don’t turn to wizards or practice witchcraft. Penalty: stoning to death. Same punishment for adultery for both offenders. In the case of bestiality, man or woman and the beast are killed. If you work on the Sabbath, you’ll be destroyed. We even get some real estate law: If a man sells a house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year after its sale.

Monetary values for humans are given in shekels of silver. Males aged 20–60 are worth the most, 50 shekels; women max out at 30 shekels. Formulas are given for other ages.

Comic Relief

We are given a story to break up the piling on of rules. A half Egyptian boy is going around camp cursing and blaspheming God’s name. They bring the troubled lad to Moses who locks him up until he hears from God. Soon enough, God decides to have the foul-mouthed kid stoned to death by the entire congregation. Curses!

An Eye for an Eye

Here comes the granddaddy of all Old Testament Bible rules: “When a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.

What If We Don’t?

God wraps up Leviticus with a barrage of hurt if the rules aren’t followed, the covenant is broken, or ordinances are ignored. You thought plagues were bad? How about sudden terror, consumption, fever that burns your eyes out, wild beasts eating your children, cities being laid waste, vengeance, fury, stalking, and the promise to “never again smell your pleasing odors.”

Stick with the program and you’ll beat your enemies, have enough to eat, get the promised land, and enjoy the milk and honey.

The Nonbeliever’s Guide to Bible Stories is now available on Amazon.

Excerpt reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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