Keemonta Peterson, 29, of Portland, told police she decided to circumcise her baby at home after reading the Bible. She said she watched some YouTube videos about circumcisions before making the attempt in October, according to The Oregonian. (LINK)
Yeah, yeah. Another crazy person taking the Bible a bit too literally. Are we surprised? Do we think this is a good argument against Christianity?
Most people would say no, but I say yes. It is a good argument against Christianity. I alluded to the problem in my recent post about international women’s rights:
There is a problem with the texts. Theyare abusive, and in many cases, it takes a high degree of credulity and some pretty creative cherry picking to consider them “pro-human rights” or “pro-women’s rights.” For a person of conscience to be a Christian or a Muslim and also stand for women’s rights and international human rights, the impetus must come from internal feelings of human empathy. The scriptures must then be bent to the will of the reader.
Let’s think about things we know. We know that Biblical literalism is strongly correlated to low education. That’s kind of a no-brainer. Anyone with good science education — especially in biology or psychology — will be hard pressed to reconcile the gross errors in the Bible with scientific reality.
We also know that as a country becomes better educated and more affluent, religious influence goes down, both personally and politically. We can dicker about which is the chicken and which is the egg, but education plus opportunity and resources equals high self reliance and low religiosity.
So what about Keemonta Peterson? She read the Bible and took it literally. Babies need to be circumcised. Presumably, she doesn’t have good healthcare, and couldn’t afford to go to the doctor for the procedure. But she didn’t want to upset God. So she got a box cutter and did her best to make God happy.
In a country with high poverty, low literacy, and little to no available healthcare for the poor (That’s America, by the way), it’s exactly what we should see. Poor, undereducated people shouldn’t be expected to understand the “nuance” of interpreting the Bible as a benevolent treatise on love and humanitarian respect. On its surface, and at least several layers downward, the Bible is a horrific text filled with atrocity. Anyone reading it without “proper hermeneutical training” shouldn’t be expected to “interpret” it as a love allegory.
On the other hand, in countries where most everyone is financially stable, well educated, and healthy, this kind of thing just doesn’t happen much. First, the woman would have had the option of circumcision at the hospital, where her insurance would cover it one way or another. So the problem is pre-solved. But in such a country, nearly everyone would be educated enough to know that the Bible has to be taken figuratively if one is to be a decent human. And once a society has made that jump, it’s just a baby step to taking the whole thing with a grain of salt… which leads to the low religiosity thing I mentioned earlier.
And THAT is why Christianity is awful. For those ignorant and poor enough to feel like they need to rely on it, we have no reason to expect them to read it non-literally. For those well off enough to feel like they are self-reliant, it takes only a modicum of humanitarian rationality to discard it as figurative, and place it where it belongs — on the bookshelf next to all the other mythology.
Christianity pulls the poor down and doesn’t enlighten the rich. It is a solution without a problem. It offers universal salvation then widens the gap between educated and ignorant. It enslaves those who most need freedom while being waved aside by those who have help to give.
Any one of us — you, gentle reader, or I, or anyone else with half a conscience — could devise a better religion that would actually encourage people to be good to their neighbors, to care for the poor, and to respect the rights of others. And if I invented a religion, I can guarantee there wouldn’t be any passages that could justify a poor woman cutting her son’s penis with a box-cutter.