Would you stone the man described in Numbers 15?

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PinSeeker wrote:You just have to use them, that's all, because to this point, you haven't.
PinSeeker wrote: but (putting it mildly) stir controversy and cause discord. And that would seem to be the case with you. And your cohorts here.
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Post by Mithrae »

rikuoamero wrote: here's one final question from me, that none of you seem to have even thought of. Admittedly, none of the atheist skeptic crowd seem to have thought of it either...
Why stoning?
A participatory execution for a trespass which undermined the most important social cohesion law the Israelites had. You directed that question at me earlier, but amidst a fair bit of other content - which, alas, has gone unanswered by both you and Elijah John - I figured that one was trivial/obvious enough to skim over at the time. Plus of course the deterrent aspect of stoning not exactly being the nicest way to die - though also far, far from the worst! - but the participatory aspect seems to be key. Roman decimation, or more recent firing squads, multiple folk flipping the switch on the chair etc. are slightly different takes on a similar concept.

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Post by rikuoamero »

[Replying to post 181 by Mithrae]
You directed that question at me earlier,
Apologies for missing it.
Plus of course the deterrent aspect of stoning not exactly being the nicest way to die - though also far, far from the worst! - but the participatory aspect seems to be key. Roman decimation, or more recent firing squads, multiple folk flipping the switch on the chair etc. are slightly different takes on a similar concept.
My disagreement has to do with what I would expect of a god who is actually better than me, better than humans. While I'm not strictly 100% against execution (in my opinion, it should be done only in the most extreme circumstances), at the very least it should be painless. Making it painful is just pure sadism.
As for firing squads/flipping the switch, don't those methods involve blank cartridges/dud switches, so as to diffuse responsibility?

I can understand in a godless world, a primitive tribe taking up this stoning practice. They simply don't know any better. But a world with a god? Most especially a god whom adherents today insist they follow and get their morals from, who is the same god who commanded the stoning...?
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Post by Mithrae »

rikuoamero wrote:
Plus of course the deterrent aspect of stoning not exactly being the nicest way to die - though also far, far from the worst! - but the participatory aspect seems to be key. Roman decimation, or more recent firing squads, multiple folk flipping the switch on the chair etc. are slightly different takes on a similar concept.
My disagreement has to do with what I would expect of a god who is actually better than me, better than humans. While I'm not strictly 100% against execution (in my opinion, it should be done only in the most extreme circumstances), at the very least it should be painless. Making it painful is just pure sadism.
There's nothing necessarily sadistic about stoning compared to most other forms of execution. Depending on size, speed and accuracy the first stone cast could easily do the job, or certainly the first volley; perhaps a second of actual physical pain comparable to beheading or shooting and more humane than hanging. You've spent half the thread excoriating others for supposedly trying to see the worst in this individual Sabbath breaker (when in fact it was his peers, or 'God,' who actually deemed him worthy of death) but apparently with far less basis you are quite determined to see the worst in a whole nation!
rikuoamero wrote:As for firing squads/flipping the switch, don't those methods involve blank cartridges/dud switches, so as to diffuse responsibility?
I'm not sure how many folks' minds work in such a way that there being only a one in four chance that they were the ones to flip the killing switch actually changes their feeling of responsibility for the execution, but yes, that is one way the practices have been framed. Objectively and most obviously, they spread participation in the act of execution around beyond a single individual, in addition to (perhaps) diffusing/lessening each participants' subjective feeling of responsibility. They may be a slightly different take on the same concept, or may be the same since we're not really told anything about the psychology behind stoning; it would be difficult to know whether you threw the killing stone, too!
rikuoamero wrote:I can understand in a godless world, a primitive tribe taking up this stoning practice. They simply don't know any better. But a world with a god? Most especially a god whom adherents today insist they follow and get their morals from, who is the same god who commanded the stoning...?
Again, the key question is whether the 'law of Moses' was better or more optimal than what was available from surrounding contemporary cultures. If so then it would be compatible with the assumption that being a good god is akin to being a guiding parent. Neither you nor anyone else has answered that key question; most folk critics and Christians alike seem not to even be thinking about it, many simply throwing out hyper-emotive descriptions of the incident as 'stupidity' or 'barbaric' or (as you put it) "the absolute basest bloodlust in humanity."

You've also claimed that you could provide a better societal model for even a primitive society to follow, but of course you have not and cannot provide any evidence to back up that boast. You haven't even answered my critique that aggregate human nature seems rather stubborn; that there is not and never has been any shortage of conceptually better ways to do things, and yet even enlightened 21st century America is still struggling to measure up to many of the better ideals expressed in the Pentateuch itself! Even if you suppose that you could create a societal model which seems miles better in your head, there's every probability that in pragmatic terms trying to drag the Israelites so far from where they started would fare much worse than the 'law of Moses' merely urging them forward by a few steps.


It really doesn't bother me in the slightest whether the Pentateuch generally and this Sabbath story particularly were better than surrounding contemporary cultures or merely average for their situation; whether they were hand-written by a god or vaguely inspired or had nothing to do with god at all. But the arguments against that position (and in fairness, those in favour too) have really been of a rather low quality indeed... so many critics and atheists gathered here making claims and assertions apparently based more in how they feel about the story than whether they can even theoretically justify their views with evidence :lol:

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Post by rikuoamero »

[Replying to post 183 by Mithrae]
You've spent half the thread excoriating others for supposedly trying to see the worst in this individual Sabbath breaker (when in fact it was his peers, or 'God,' who actually deemed him worthy of death)
At least two people have said the man was some sort of rebel, and equated what he did with genocide and treason. So yeah...there's no "supposedly" going on here. They literally have tried to see the worst in the man.
There's nothing necessarily sadistic about stoning compared to most other forms of execution. Depending on size, speed and accuracy the first stone cast could easily do the job, or certainly the first volley; perhaps a second of actual physical pain comparable to beheading or shooting and more humane than hanging.
All these methods can and have caused intense pain and not just physical pain. There's also the [strike]physiological[/strike] psychological shock of having to kill someone. If we're to go by the axiom of there's a god involved with great knowledge and power, such a god would be able to tell the Hebrews to use a painless method of killing.
but apparently with far less basis you are quite determined to see the worst in a whole nation!
Is this because I called them howling barbarians?
Objectively and most obviously, they spread participation in the act of execution around beyond a single individual, in addition to (perhaps) diffusing/lessening each participants' subjective feeling of responsibility. They may be a slightly different take on the same concept, or may be the same since we're not really told anything about the psychology behind stoning; it would be difficult to know whether you threw the killing stone, too!
There's a huge difference between blank cartridges/dud switches and heavy stones. The former are physically incapable of harming someone, while the latter is. A group of men shooting at someone and some of them having blank cartridges means that while they don't know which of them has the actual lethal firearm, they go into it knowing that for some of them they are physically incapable of harming the prisoner.
In this situation, all the rocks are capable of killing the prisoner. Each and every one. There is no mention in the story, no thought given, to the concept of diffused responsibility, so this is another strike against the supposed existing god. Each and every person who picks up a rock does so in the full knowledge that he has in his hands a murder weapon and intends to use it.
Again, the key question is whether the 'law of Moses' was better or more optimal than what was available from surrounding contemporary cultures. If so then it would be compatible with the assumption that being a good god is akin to being a guiding parent.
In this analogy, I'd expect to hear about parents killing their children for tidying up their room on a Saturday. Is that what a good, guiding parent is supposed to do?
The parent analogy doesn't work.
Neither you nor anyone else has answered that key question; most folk critics and Christians alike seem not to even be thinking about it, many simply throwing out hyper-emotive descriptions of the incident as 'stupidity' or 'barbaric' or (as you put it) "the absolute basest bloodlust in humanity."
I have been answering it. Consider that the Christians on this page have been saying that the man deserved to die, because he after all violated one of the Ten Commandments. Well...Thou Shalt Not Kill is also one of the commandments. Does a guiding parent give contradictory orders to his children?
The reason why I have been so vocal on this thread (and other related threads, much like the moral question I posed to Christians as a group in the Ask a Group subforum) is BECAUSE of what I think about this whole concept, of being guided by such a god, or worshipping, following, obeying and learning from it...and my conclusion that such a concept does not make sense.
You've also claimed that you could provide a better societal model for even a primitive society to follow,
Using even my limited education, I could improve things for the Hebrews. I could instruct them in germ theory for example. My own societal model would be something more than just "Do whatever this man over here says God has commanded", which seems to be the be all and end all of what the story of Numbers 15 teaches.
You haven't even answered my critique that aggregate human nature seems rather stubborn; that there is not and never has been any shortage of conceptually better ways to do things, and yet even enlightened 21st century America is still struggling to measure up to many of the better ideals expressed in the Pentateuch itself!
In our modern day, our legal concepts have things like mens rea, mitigating circumstances, etc. Such concepts appear not to have been the case regarding Numbers 15. I wonder at that - if we humans can think up such things, why not God? Why is it God apparently doesn't consider mens rea? Why is it that the Christians on this page do not allow any sort of presumption of innocence kind of thought. I do that. I don't know WHAT the man was trying to do with the sticks. Others have said that he was a dangerous rebel, and equated what he did with wilful genocide and treason. Okay...maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. But the story doesn't tell us that. All the data we have is
1) The man picked up sticks
2) It was the wrong day of the week to do so
3) The mob asks what should be done with him
4) God answers (via Moses) that the man should die.
The Christians on this thread have (most of them) jumped to the conclusion that the man is evil and was plotting something. As I have said a few times, this is indicative to me of what the religion does - it causes people to think the absolute worst of one another. Not the best.
Even if you suppose that you could create a societal model which seems miles better in your head, there's every probability that in pragmatic terms trying to drag the Israelites so far from where they started would fare much worse than the 'law of Moses' merely urging the them forward by a few steps.
Possibly. However, is this to say one shouldn't try to teach something better than hurling stones at skulls for picking up sticks?
But the arguments against that position have really been of a rather low quality indeed... so many critics and atheists gathered here making claims and assertions apparently based more in how they feel about the story than whether they can even theoretically justify their views with evidence
This isn't a discussion about evidence, per se. You'll notice that the OP's question doesn't ask whether the god mentioned in Numbers 15 exists. No the question is
"If you were there with these Israelites, would you stone this man in obedience to Moses and to Yahweh? "
So of course the discussion went where it did. Also I want to point out that those who supported the stoning and said they'd take part also made arguments without evidence. Those people who said the man was essentially doing genocide and treason - part of my arguments on this thread have been about the complete lack of evidence to back up their claims (the story makes no mention of what he planned to do with the sticks) and yet here they are thinking the absolute worst of him.
Again, the key question is whether the 'law of Moses' was better or more optimal than what was available from surrounding contemporary cultures.
I want to go back to this for a moment - should the Hebrews have burned infants in fires to [strike]Molech[/strike] excuse me Yahweh if Yahweh commanded it?
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Some force seems to restrict me from buying into the apparent nonsense that others find so easy to buy into. Having no religious or supernatural beliefs of my own, I just call that force reason. -- Tired of the Nonsense

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Re: Would you stone the man described in Numbers 15?

Post by JJ50 »

Jagella wrote: Consider this story from Numbers 15:32-36(NRSV):
When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day. Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation. They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.� The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
Question for Debate: If you were there with these Israelites, would you stone this man in obedience to Moses and to Yahweh?

Keep in mind that this man may have been gathering sticks to build a fire to cook for for his family and to keep them warm. After the Bible god had him killed, any wife he had would be left a widow and any children he had would be left without a father to provide for them. They would be left cold, hungry, and facing poverty. Any friends he had among the Israelites would be obligated to kill their friend.

Despite these consequences of Yahweh's order to stone the man to death, all the Jews and by extension all Christians coming later must obey the Bible god. Any objections you have to this cruel act are nothing to Yahweh and may even result in a similar punishment for disobedience to him. You have a god you must believe in and obey without question and without reason.

I predict that few if any of the Christians here will answer this question honestly and sensibly. To post such an answer is to expose Christian beliefs for what they are.

There is a lot of things in the Bible which are very wrong indeed, and no decent person should take them seriously.

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Post by Mithrae »

rikuoamero wrote:
but apparently with far less basis you are quite determined to see the worst in a whole nation!
Is this because I called them howling barbarians?
You're attempting to portray stoning as some kind of "sadistic" execution. It could potentially be a slow and painful death... but only if you're determined to start with the assumption that the Israelites were sadists. Otherwise it could easily have been more humane than hanging (to say nothing of crucifixion, burning etc.), even comparable to shooting or beheading.
rikuoamero wrote:
Again, the key question is whether the 'law of Moses' was better or more optimal than what was available from surrounding contemporary cultures. If so then it would be compatible with the assumption that being a good god is akin to being a guiding parent.
In this analogy, I'd expect to hear about parents killing their children for tidying up their room on a Saturday. Is that what a good, guiding parent is supposed to do?
The parent analogy doesn't work.
Neither you nor anyone else has answered that key question; most folk critics and Christians alike seem not to even be thinking about it, many simply throwing out hyper-emotive descriptions of the incident as 'stupidity' or 'barbaric' or (as you put it) "the absolute basest bloodlust in humanity."
I have been answering it.
Well gee, so you're saying that good parents don't set limits, enforce discipline and remove bad influence at all, huh? :roll: Absurd hyperbole isn't going to get you anywhere, it just makes it look like you don't have anything substantive to offer. God the 'parent' never killed Israel the 'child' under his guidance. Perhaps more to the point if the law of Moses was better than surrounding cultures' then, by likening that to parents killing their children, you must be under the impression that most parents do something even worse than killing their children.

I've been reading the thread quite closely, and I'm pretty sure you have never answered or even attempted to answer the question of whether whether the 'law of Moses' was better or more optimal than what was available from surrounding contemporary cultures. Feel free to point me where you have done so if I've missed it, but otherwise let's try to avoid pretending that you have.
rikuoamero wrote:
You've also claimed that you could provide a better societal model for even a primitive society to follow,
Using even my limited education, I could improve things for the Hebrews. I could instruct them in germ theory for example. My own societal model would be something more than just "Do whatever this man over here says God has commanded", which seems to be the be all and end all of what the story of Numbers 15 teaches.
Yeah, you could tell them that there's these little nasty things crawling all over their hands and food - which they can't see, they just have to take your word for it - and they're eating millions of these little critters every day and breathing them in when someone's sick, and got them living inside them too... Suddenly and authoritatively springing that kind of information on a whole generation of adults wouldn't cause mass neuroses and hysteria at all, I'm sure :? Or you could just make ritual washing a core aspect of their culture, tell them not to eat raw meat, shellfish, carnivores and so on - as the Pentateuch does - and being better off by learning what to do, leave them the opportunity for growth by learning why as and when they are able.
rikuoamero wrote:
You haven't even answered my critique that aggregate human nature seems rather stubborn; that there is not and never has been any shortage of conceptually better ways to do things, and yet even enlightened 21st century America is still struggling to measure up to many of the better ideals expressed in the Pentateuch itself!
In our modern day, our legal concepts have things like mens rea, mitigating circumstances, etc. Such concepts appear not to have been the case regarding Numbers 15. I wonder at that - if we humans can think up such things, why not God? Why is it God apparently doesn't consider mens rea?
Are you even attempting to be honest here?
  • Numbers 15:29 You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. 30 But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.
Those are quite literally the verses immediately before the story of the Sabbath breaker, and they have already been highlighted by someone earlier in the thread; but you're seemingly so blinded by determination to see the worst here that you either didn't notice or, worse, have chosen to ignore it.

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Re: Would you stone the man described in Numbers 15?

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rikuoamero wrote:Pin...you seem to be completely detached from reality.
In your opinion. Yeah, I getcha. And what I'd say to that is, if you (as an unbeliever) didn't think that, I'd have to start thinking there's something wrong (with me). But yeah, in a spiritual sense, I am detached from your "reality." And I thank God for that.
rikuoamero wrote:Pin...you seem to be completely detached from reality....why then would you say of me that I hate, am prideful, am selfish?
It drips from your every post. Ah, it may be unintentional, but still, it is what it is. And even apart from that, I know because it's true of me, too; it's true of all of humanity, fine folk as they may be.
rikuoamero wrote:What makes you think that of me, if you're not going by my actions?
But I am.
rikuoamero wrote:It's like you're convicting people (just like the man in Numbers 15) of all sorts of things and they don't have the benefit of a defense, to argue their own case.
I'm not "convicting" anybody. Or condemning, or damning. That's God's job; mine is to just call 'em like I see 'em. And let me ask you, Riko: What defense is there for knowingly breaking a law? Or even unknowingly; ignorance of the law is no excuse, right? That's really a rhetorical question; no need to answer, but you can if you want.
rikuoamero wrote:
Humanly speaking, it's about the "stick-picker-upper" (again, it's somewhat humorous, in a dark way, how you guys try to trivialize it)
As far as I'm aware, I'm the only one who has used that term. I use it to make my point...
Right, to make your misguided (whether purposeful or otherwise), wrongheaded point. Exactly.
rikuoamero wrote:I find it appalling how you are able to read all this of the man, and say he's evil and hated your god...
Ah, now. You're putting words in my mouth. That's not what I said. However, I will say that anything less -- anything -- than perfect observance of all of God's Law and thus perfect love for Him is, in a godly sense, disregard for and thus hatred of His Law and of Him. Even if it is unintentional. More on this below.
rikuoamero wrote:...the story is incredibly brief and doesn't tell us anything about him.
It tells us that he broke the law. God's Law. And that's all we need to know, really; it's the point of the story. And the story is really about God and His holiness and justice and what He requires of men (and women) rather than being about the, uh, "stick-pickeri-upper."
rikuoamero wrote:I reiterate what I said in an earlier comment: this religion of yours divides mankind, and despite all the rhetoric of peace and love...actually has you, its adherents, hating their fellow man.
Okay, and I reiterate that calling others to repent and believe is -- and thus desiring for others the great salvation given to oneself -- is a great love for one's fellow man.
rikuoamero wrote:
and his deserved punishment.
Which was apparently heavy stones to the skull.
Right, deserved of God. The wages of sin is death. Regardless of the method.
rikuoamero wrote:You're complaining about violence and murder from humans towards humans, and this story has your god commanding violence and murder from humans towards humans.
No, it has Him upholding His perfect holiness and justice.
rikuoamero wrote:So yes, it is what I think.
Sure, and that's too bad.
rikuoamero wrote:If violence and murder is a bad thing in your eyes (and mine), why is your god commanding it?
He's not commanding violence and murder -- God does not "command" sin, nor is He the author of it, and murder is against His own Law (His sixth commandment), by the way, as you must well know -- but rather executing His perfect justice. The man violated the fourth commandment. And in so doing, he exhibited -- even in what we might consider a benign way -- hatred for God and His Law. Anything less -- anything -- than perfect observance of all of God's Law and thus perfect love for Him is, in a godly sense, hatred of His Law and hatred of Him. Which is a violation of what Jesus said was the first and greatest commandment -- to love the Lord God with all the heart, mind, and strength. And we are all guilty of this. All of us. It takes different forms in all of us, but we're all guilty. Every single last one of us.

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Re: Would you stone the man described in Numbers 15?

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Mithrae, you're a bit of an enigma, to me, man. :) Maybe that's your intention. But I like your last two posts. Peace to you, bro.

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Re: Would you stone the man described in Numbers 15?

Post by Jagella »

tam wrote:Peace to you.
There is no peace when murder is glorified.
I do not know how anyone answers this question so absolutely, considering all the variables involved. Different time, different place, different needs for the survival of an entire community, possible errors in the text from the erring pen of the scribes, a definite lack of details from two sentences in a manuscript describing an event that took place three thousand-ish years ago.


Tam, we have a story of Yahweh/Christ ordering that a man be brutally murdered; as a result a crazed mob bashed his head in with rocks. I don't care about "variables." The place and time make no difference. An evil act is evil in all places and times.
Although I might point out that the OP suggests that the reader keep in mind that this man might have been gathering sticks to keep his family warm...
Why else would he gather sticks other than to do the work he needed to do? The man did nothing wrong.
...when this cautionary tale actually comes directly after the warning about a person defiantly breaking the law.
So brutally murdering a man is justified if he's warned? Any person with a bit of compassion would defy such a wicked god. The man is a hero for obeying the stupid sabbath law.
Then there are questions about me: Would I have been the same person at that time? How might events have shaped me differently? Would I have known then what/who I know now?
Your religion binds you to absolute obedience to Yahweh/Christ. No matter how wicked, cruel, or stupid the injunction might be, you must do it.
(Some also seem to forget that Israel vowed to obey Moses. Israel was too afraid to hear God, they wanted Moses to talk to God, then tell them what God wanted, and they would obey whatever Moses, the servant of God, said. So Israel was obligated by their own word. That was their choice.)
Did the victim in this murder story ever agree to have his skull caved in with stones? Did his family and friends ever agree to murder him?
If you want to know what I would (hope to) do in a situation like that, then ask me a question that is going to pertain to me in the here and now (or at least in my future).


Fine. If Christ ordered you to butcher me, would you do it?
And of course we also have Christ saving the life of the woman caught in adultery.
Isn't that weird? Christ orders that women be murdered only to "save" one. One isn't many compared to the huge number that must have died as a result of the cruel and evil law of Moses.
Christ is the One who reveals God to us as God truly is.
So we see!
We already know that Moses had to give some laws due to the hard-heartedness of the people...
What could be more hard-hearted than to stone a man to death?

I feel very strongly about this issue because I have been a victim of Christian violence and abuse. When apologists lie to white-wash their religion, they hurt people, and it appears that they don't care if they hurt people.

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