An astonishing bit of news from former President Jimmy Carter on behalf of a group called the Elders:
“The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”
In short: don’t believe everything you read in the Bible. What’s more, because the Southern Baptist Convention does in fact find the discrimination of women “acceptable” (i.e., biblical, so just do it) Carter has ended his association with that influential group. Let me remind you that the Southern Baptists are 15 million strong—second in size only to Catholics in the USA.
The astonishing part is the reason Carter gives for deeming this practice of discrimination unacceptable:
“The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.”
Wow. President Carter rejects certain verses because they can’t be direct orders from a divine Being despite the fact that they are in a holy book. Why can’t they? Because there is a higher authority than what some guy thousands of years ago wrote down on a piece of papyrus, a higher authority that lies within each of us: Reason. If a practice like slavery causes suffering to a whole class of people, it cannot be just or what God wants us to do. If half the population is reduced to a kind of sexual slavery because of a certain verse on an old parchment passed down from father to son for a couple of millennia, then toss that verse in the trash can of oblivion and let’s live according to a different standard: the Greater Good based on the rights of all human beings.
Carter’s welcome apostasy opens up the door to a room we so badly need right now in the world: the editing room, a place where so-called holy writ is analyzed and large sections consigned to the dustbin, from Balaam’s ass to the virgin birth. People have been busily at work in this room since Epicurus first wrote that the gods have no interest in us mortals, so lets get on with finding the best way to enjoy our lives together. It’s a room where Socrates, Hus, Bruno and a host of others have labored until overwhelmed by the forces of the dark side.
President Carter’s declaration means we should think about each and every verse in the Bible and every other holy book, asking ourselves “is this a keeper?” and the gauge can be found in the precepts of Humanism.
For more on this subject try “Sam Harris to Muslims: Edit Your Sacred Texts!”