8. Muhammad in his Quran permits husbands to beat their wives.
A passage from the Quran appears to encourage husbands to strike their wives under certain circumstances in order to get their wives to listen and obey. Arlandson concludes that "domestic violence sits at the heart of early Islam...".
In part IV of this series I pointed out that in Christian America in the 21st century, we have a serious problem with domestic violence against women and children. So, not only has Christianity FAILED to create a culture here that is free from domestic violence against women and children, but it has ALLOWED for a culture to develop in which such violence is very common.
Furthermore, in parts V, VI, and VII, I have shown that sexism, which is an important contributing factor in the domestic violence that we see in the USA, is clearly promoted by the Bible, by the sacred scripture of the Christian religion.
Finally, the Bible also promotes violence as a preferred way for people to interact with each other. In combination with the sexism that is clearly promoted by the Bible, the promotion of the use of violence in the Bible is probably a significant contributing factor which partly explains the prevelance of domestic violence in Christian America in the 21st century.
In the very earliest interaction between God and man, God threatens Adam and Eve with death as a punishment:
And the LORD God commanded the man, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die." (Genesis 2:16-17, NRSV)
When God is displeased with the behavior of the humans that he created, his solution is to kill all human beings, men, women, and children, and every living creature on the face of the earth, except for the family of Noah, and selected pairs of various animals that are put on Noah's ark:
And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth..." (Genesis 6:13, NRSV)
God's solution to the problem of violence on earth is to kill off almost all life on earth, to make a fresh start.
When God is displeased with the behavior of the people of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, his response is to destory the cities, to kill every man, woman, and child in these cities, with the exception of Lot and Lot's family:
Then the men [two angels] said to Lot, "Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city--bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it." (Genesis 19:12-13, NRSV)
Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. (Genesis 19:24-25, NRSV)
So, in the early chapters of the first book of the Bible, we are confronted with a deity that turns to the use of violence against humans as a preferred way of resolving issues with humans.
The Old Testament is largely the story of the origin, development, and decline of the nation of Israel, God's "chosen people". But the origins of the nation of Israel are drenched in violence and bloodshed. Not only was the nation of Israel founded on the massive genocidal slaughter of thousands of men, women, and children, but this massive genocidal slaughter was, according to the OT, the result of the nation of Israel obeying the command of God to engage in such slaughter of men, women, and children:
But as for the towns of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes in them remain alive. You shall annihilate them--the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites--just as the LORD your God has commanded...(Deuteronomy 20:16-18)
Joshua was a military leader of Israel who led the nation into wars of aggression to steal land from other peoples. Joshua faithfully carried out the slaughter that Jehovah had commanded:
Joshua said to the people “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city [Jericho]. The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. …”
So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall [around Jericho] fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it. Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys.
They burned down the city, and everything in it; only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. (Joshua 6: 16-17, 20-21, 24)
So, the origins of the nation of Israel include genocidal killing of men, women and children which occurs as part of wars of aggression in which the people of Israel steal land from the native people who were already living in Palestine, and the genocidal killing of men, women, and children was at the command of Jehovah, the god of the Old Testament, the to whom Jesus prayed and to whom the followers of Jesus prayed.
According to Moses, the Levites (considered descendants of the tribe of Levi, one of the twelve sons of Israel) were given a special blessing and chosen to be priests of ancient Israel because they were ready, willing and able to slaughter their fellow Israelites in order to enforce religious orthodoxy and punish the worship of gods other than the god of Moses. When Moses brought the tablets with the ten commandments down from mount Sinai he found some Israelites worshipping a golden calf, Moses became angry and demanded violence be used to punish the Israelites:
...then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, "Who is on the LORD's side" Come to me!" And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. He said to them, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor.'" The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. Moses said, "Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day." (Exodus 32:26-29, NRSV)
The Bible also teaches that death is the proper punishment for adultery:
Leviticus 20:10 (New International Version)
10 " 'If a man commits adultery with another man's wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.
Deuteronomy 22:22 (New International Version)
22 If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.
The Bible also assigns the death penalty for a number of minor offenses:
- kidnapping (Exodus 21:16)
- working on a Saturday (Exodus 31:14-15 and Numbers 15:32-36)
- for blasphemy or cursing god (Leviticus 24:15-16)
- worshipping "any other god" (Deuteronomy 13:6-16 and Deuteronomy 17:2-5)
- cursing your father or mother (Exodus 21:17)
- a man having sex with another man (Leviticus 20:13)
- disobeying the ruling of a judge or priest (Deuteronomy 17:8-13)
The Bible also teaches that it is OK to beat slaves, so long as a slave was not beaten to death. Actually, it was OK to beat a slave to death, so long as it took more than one day for the slave to die:
When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner's property. (Exodus 21:20-21, NRSV)
So, the Bible teaches that (1) God often resorts to violence and killing to solve issues with human beings, (2) God commanded Israel to enter wars of agression to steal land from the native peoples living in Palestine, (3) God commanded the nation of Israel to engage in genocidal slaughter of men, women, and children, (4) the Levite tribe is given special blessings because their forefathers were ready, willing, and able to kill their fellow Israelites who worshipped a different god than the god of Moses, and (5) God commanded the use of the death penalty not only for murderers, but also for a number of more minor misbehaviours: adultery, working on the Sabbath, worshipping some other god, cursing one's father or mother, etc.
Clearly, the Bible teaches that violence and killing are an acceptable and even a preferable way of interacting with other human beings, a way to solve problems with other human beings, a way to manage and influence the behavior of human beings. The positve view of the use of violence combined with the promotion of sexism in the Bible is part of the reason why domestic violence against women and children is still a serious problem in the USA, where the Christian religion has dominated our culture for nearly three centuries.
So, if the Quran is to be judged as promoting domestic violence, based on a passage that appears to encourage husbands to strike their wives in certain circumstances to get their wives to listen and obey, then the Bible is also to be judged as promoting domestic violence based on numerous passages where the Bible promotes sexism and where the Bible promotes the use of violence for resolving issues with human beings and for managing the behavior of human beings. The objection that Arlandson raises against the Islam clearly applies to Christianity, and given that killing people and the use of the death penalty are often promoted in the Bible, one could argue that this objection applies with even greater force to the Bible and Christianity.